Exactly a week after she landed in Doha, Angelique Kerber finally hit the court at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex yesterday. It had been a frustrating wait for the top seed as she waited for rain to relent to play her first match.
But the off-court frustration would carry on to the court as the German crashed out of the Qatar Total Open. It was an error-strewn performance from Kerber, failing to get any sort of momentum as she fell to Daria Kasatkina in the second round.
The Russian teen won 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 to seal her place in the quarter-finals. It was the second time this year that Kasatkina has won against the former World No.1 after beating her at the Sydney International last month, 7-6, 6-2.
Kerber, who lost her No. 1 ranking to Serena Williams after she failed to defend her Australian Open crown last month, was looking at the Middle East swing – here in Doha and next week in Dubai to recapture her form.
But the 29-year-old moved gingerly yesterday and was clearly struggling with her movements. “I was not feeling the best today; I’m trying to find my rhythm,” Kerber said. “But she (Kasatkina) plays good. I made too many mistakes in the important moments. I think it was, for sure, not my day.”
The 32nd-ranked Kasatkina, on the other hand, is a rising star in the women’s game. The 19-year-old is in her second year on the tour and will be fancying her chances of a maiden WTA title.
Kerber missed six break point chances in the first set, and Kasatkina capitalised on it. But Kerber bounced back, blanking the Russian in the second set to get herself back on level terms.
Seemingly in command heading into the decider, Kerber couldn’t get the momentum going and fell 6-4 in the third. It wasn’t easy for Kasatkina, who needed four set points to complete the upset.
It meant that Kerber’s underwhelming start to the 2017 season only got worse, as she stands at 4-4. And none of her four victories have been over players ranked inside the top 50.
Kerber was bewildered by her poor form and was keen to turn her fortunes in Dubai.
“Of course, the weather, it can happen like this,” she said. “We have to wait a lot, but this is not a big deal. I have to get ready again and feel good because, I was not feeling very good in the last few days. I think this is the most important thing for me right now. Then, of course, looking forward to doing well next week in Dubai,” she admitted.
Kasatkina was playing Olympic champion Monica Puig last night in the quarters, before rain brought a halt to the proceedings. Puig of Puerto Rico was leading 2-1 in the decider after both players had taken a set each. After a lengthy delay, play was suspended for the night, with the players scheduled to return today morning to complete their match.
Meanwhile, former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki dumped her close friend and fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland out of the tournament with a straight-sets 7-5 6-3 win.
Denmark’s Wozniacki, who has slipped to No. 18, has looked in good rhythm so far in Doha and she was once again impressive yesterday.
This was the 16th time the pair had faced off, with the Dane now leading 10-6 in the head-to-head. “We always have great matches. The last two times we’ve played I’ve lost to her,” said Wozniacki.
She was back on court in the evening for her last-eight clash against qualifier Lauren Davis and was leading 1-0 before rain forced them indoors.
Third seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia got lucky as she escaped rain for the second successive day and booked her spot in the semi-finals.
The current WTA Finals champion ousted former World No.4 Samantha Stosur 7-5, 6-4, finally breaking her drought against the Australian.
Cibulkova had lost all five of her previous matches against Stosur – all in straight sets, but the Slovak has made vast improvements since their last meeting in 2014. She hit 18 winners to just 10 unforced errors and converted five of the eight break point opportunities throughout the rain-affected match.
“She was fighting and really into the match,” said Cibulkova after winning the 400th match of her career. “It came down to a few points here and there; you can see from the scoreline that it was very tight. The conditions are tough here, but I’m happy to have got lucky this week so far.”
“I tried to have a new tactic against Sam because I’d never beaten her before, and it was really working hard today. I have to say, I was playing well,” the Slovak added.
Up next for the World No.5 is Chinese Zhang Shuai or second seed Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic. The last quarter-final match was to take place last night but now will be played today morning.
Earlier, Pliskova had made it through to the last eight, after beating France’s Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4. Zhang on Wednesday had upset fifth seed Garbine Muguruza.
3-Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) beat Samantha Stosur (Australia) 7-5 6-4
Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) beat 4-Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) 7-5 6-3
Darya Kasatkina (Russia) beat 1-Angelique Kerber (Germany) 6-4 0-6 6-4
Samantha Stosur (Australia) beat 8-Barbora Strycova (Czech Republic) 6-3 3-6 6-4
2-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Caroline Garcia (France) 7-5 6-4
Lauren Davis (US) beat 6-Elena Vesnina (Russia) 7-5 6-2
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