A two-time champion here, Kvitova posted her 22nd win at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex, the most by any player in the Qatari capital.
Also yesterday, fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece beat Chinese qualifier Qinwen Zhang while seventh seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland made short work of Viktoria Tomova to sail into the second round of the 500-point WTA tournament. Former Doha finalist Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia yesterday eased past Madison Keys of the US in straight sets to move into the second round of the $800,000 tournament.
The second day’s action kicked off with Kvitova making the right moves in her win over 34-year-old Zheng in 75 minutes on Centre Court. Kvitova, winner in Doha in 2018 and 2021, fired eight aces in her commanding fifth win over Zheng in seven head-to-head meetings.
Kvitova said she loves playing on the Centre Court in Doha.
“I like everything here, especially (playing) fans for sure. I’m glad to play in front of them. I love the centre court. I love the crowd,” Kvitova, 33, said yesterday.
She turned towards the fans and said: “Thank you very much for coming so early today as well at 2pm already. You know, sometimes it’s pretty windy (in Doha), which probably I like, as I said. And yeah, the court is a little bit slow which I don’t like normally, but I like it here. So that’s important,” she added.
Kvitova, who will face fourth seed Coco Gauff of the US in her next match today, praised her opponent’s fight in the match. “Both of us have been on the Tour for a very long time and (we are) still not finished,” Kvitova said with a smile. “So it’s nice to see her still playing very well. And I’m glad I got a win, of course, but she’s one of the nicest people on the Tour for sure,” the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion said.
When asked how she spends time away from the tennis court, she said: “Well, I’m not really a fan of training, as you said. I prefer to play matches. And normally (when not playing), I am reading a book or watching some movie or something very easy.”
Ostapenko, a losing finalist in Doha in 2016, yesterday looked the part as she demolished Keys in straight sets. Ostapenko won 7-5, 6-2 for her second victory over Keys in five matches. Ostapenko rallied from 3-0 down in the first set to seal her win in emphatic fashion.
“First of all, thanks guys for coming. It was a really nice atmosphere. I was always here. I have really great memories being on this court and I just love to play here. Of course, today was a really tough match and she’s such a great player. She was serving really well in the beginning of the match, but I was fighting and I think I found my game at the end and played a little better,” Ostapenko, who fired four aces, said.
“I was just trying to not give her any free points because I knew she is a great player and she has the line. I was trying to stay in the rallies and when I had the chance to go for it and I think in the second set especially, I didn’t dwell for too long,” she added.
When asked about her match against second seed Jessica Pegula of the US today, Ostapenko said: “She’s a great player and it’s going to be a tough battle, but I’m going to fight and enjoy the match and just try to play my best and we’ll see how it goes.”
Sakkari, a semi-finalist last year in Doha, yesterday fired seven aces in her 2-hour 9-minute marathon on Centre Court against Zheng who was making her Doha debut. It was Sakkari’s ninth win over the 2023 season.
Bencic, who secured her eighth career title win at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, yesterday crushed Bulgaria’s Tomova in just 59 minutes. Bencic, who also won a title in Adelaide last month, fired four aces.
It was Bencic’s third win over Tomova in as many meetings. Bencic today will take on Victoria Azarenka, a two-time champion in Doha.
Sofia Kenin of the US – the 2020 Australian Open champion – yesterday upset Abu Dhabi finalist Liudmila Samsonova 6-3, 6-1 in 1 hour and 29 minutes. It was Kenin’s third win over Samsonova in three meetings.
Today top seed and world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland will take on Danielle Collins of the US in her first outing in Doha.
First round results
Prefix denotes seeding
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) beat Q-Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-1, 6-2; 5-Maria Sakkari (GRE) beat Qinwen Zheng (CHN) 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) beat Paula Badosa (ESP) 7-6 (6), 6-3; 7-Belinda Bencic (SUI) beat Q-Viktoriya Tomova (BUL) 6-0, 6-1; (WC) Sofia Kenin (USA) beat Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-3, 6-1; Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Madison Keys (USA) 7-5, 6-2; Petra Kvitova (CZE) beat Shuai Zhang (CHN) 7-5, 6-2; Danielle Collins (USA) beat Q-Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-4, 7-6 (6); Daria Kasatkina (RUS) beat Rebecca Marino (CAN) 7-6, 6-2
Centre Court:  C. Gauff (USA) vs P. Kvitova (CZE); J. Ostapenko (LAT) vs  J. Pegula (USA);  I. Swiatek (POL) vs D. Collins (USA); NB 8:00 PM [SR] K. Muchova (CZE) vs  C. Garcia (FRA)
[WC] V. Azarenka vs  B. Bencic (SUI);  D. Kasatkina vs B. Haddad Maia (BRA);  G. Olmos (MEX) / S. Zhang (CHN) vs S. Aoyama (JPN) / M. Ninomiya (JPN);  C. Gauff (USA) / J. Pegula (USA) vs A. Rosolska (POL) / E. Routliffe (NZL)
[WC] S. Kenin (USA) vs  V. Kudermetova; [WC]  M. Sakkari (GRE) vs E. Alexandrova; Z. Yang (CHN) / V. Zvonareva vs [ALT] E. Alexandrova / A. Sasnovich; [WC] H. Chan (TPE) / L. Chan (TPE) vs  L. Kichenok (UKR) / J. Ostapenko (LAT)