Focused Halep on course for second Qatar title
February 13 2019 11:58 PM
Romania’s Simona Halep
Romania’s Simona Halep in action during her Qatar Total Open match against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko (not pictured) at Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex here yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil

By Sports Reporter/Doha

Sport is often a case of mind over matter, and perhaps there’s none better to exemplify this than Simona Halep of Romania.
A few hours after Karolina Pliskova pulled out of the Qatar Total Open because of fatigue and fever she blamed on the Czech Republic’s tiring and ill-fated Fed Cup quarter-finals against Romania in Ostrava last Sunday, Halep, who had actually beaten her, proved that keeping a positive attitude can help you reap rich dividends.
“I believe in staying focused and positive. I enjoy the fact that I feel good and I can play good tennis. Today was a good day and I feel happy,” the former World No. 1 and top seed in Doha said after her 6-2, 6-3 win over Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko.
“Well, I wish I can do that, but it’s never easy. I have so many matches ahead. I want just to think about tomorrow,” Halep added, when asked if she fancies winning her second title in Doha, following her triumph in 2014.
Halep now takes on Germany’s Julia Goerges in today’s last-eight clash, a match she says would be tough.
“It’s really tough to say now what I have to do. I know that she has a big serve, has a big forehand. I will see, and I have to be confident because I feel good on court. I have a good mood, so I have my chance. I will fight for it.”
Halep is the only player in line for a second Qatar title this week after Carla Suarez Navarro, the 2016 champion, was ousted by the Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens, the fifth seed.
Pliskova, the 2017 winner, had withdrawn earlier in the day, while her compatriot and last year’s champion Petra Kvitova had pulled out a few days before the tournament started, after initially confirming her participation.
With yesterday’s win, Halep improved her head-to-head against the Ukrainian No.2 to a perfect 6-0, having lost just one set in their meetings.
Though the World No.3 started quickly on the scoreboard, as she opened up a 5-0 lead to begin the match in the first set, three of the first five games extended past deuce or more.
After winning the first three games of the match in just over 10 minutes, Halep came through two lengthy battles — first breaking Tsurenko for a second time in a marathon nine-deuce game to lead 4-0, before saving three break points in a five-deuce affair on her own serve.
The Romanian held off a brief challenge from Tsurenko to seal the first set, and later won the last five games of the match to seal a spot in the last eight, and a return to World No.2 in the rankings. 
Goerges, meanwhile, won a marathon match against American lucky loser Alison Riske 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-4, rallying from 4-2 down in the final set.
No.4 seed Elina Svitolina also made a strong start, beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 20 minutes.
The WTA Finals champion avenged two previous losses to Ostapenko in which she had failed to win a set — in the fourth round of 2017 Wimbledon and in last year’s Miami quarter-finals. Today, though, playing for the first time since losing to Naomi Osaka in the last eight of the Australian Open, Svitolina withstood some marvellous hitting to emerge as the superior match player.
“I think I was striking the ball really good, and serving much better than I did in the previous matches against her,” said Svitolina of her performance afterwards. “The ball is flying and the wind is very tricky, so I had to be extremely quick with my feet. In the end I was very pleased that I could finish in two sets.”
Not everything has been smooth for Svitolina since Melbourne, though.
“I have been struggling since Australian Open with my neck,” she said. “I mean, it’s tough to say, because every day is changing. It depends... on the practice, on the match, what I have, so it’s tough to tell how I’m going to feel tomorrow, but every single day I try to get a treatment, I try to get some work done, and, you know, it’s just a process.
Meanwhile, for the second straight match, Bertens found herself down a set at the Qatar Total Open. For the second straight match, she rallied to win 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 over Navarro.
The No.5 seed booked her place in the quarter-finals with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 win over Navarro.
“I think in the first set I was rushing a little bit. I wanted to play too aggressive, and it was not working well. I think Carla played well. She served well,” Bertens said after the match.
“In the second set I was just waiting a little bit more but then going for my shots like where I could. I think also in the beginning of the third I was a little bit lucky here and there, but I just took it.”
Germany’s Angelique Kerber also advanced, beating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-1, 7-6 (3).

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