By Sports Reporter/WTA/Doha
American teen Amanda Anisimova once again showed glimpses of her enormous potential by knocking out fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round of the Qatar Total Open yesterday.
Just 18, Anisimova, who stunned holder Simona Halep in the quarter-finals of last year’s French Open before losing to eventual winner Ashleigh Barty in the last four, took just 64 minutes to oust Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.
“I think the most important thing was just staying focused and clearing my head, just not like putting too much pressure on myself and just trying to enjoy,” said Anisimova, whose father and first coach, Constantin, moved the family From New Jersey to Florida to give his children better training opportunities.
Two years ago at Indian Wells, she recorded her first victory against a top-10 player when she accounted for Petra Kvitova, who was on a 14-match winning streak at that time. Anisimova was playing only her fourth match as a professional and admitted she was “in shock” after her performance.
But yesterday she said she wanted to be “more chill”.
“I was playing just very free tennis, just going after every shot and the No. 1 thing I’m focusing on this week is being more chill, so that helped me a lot.
“I mean, every opponent here is a tough player, but when I go out to play a top 10 player I know I just have to be focused for every point because they can turn the match around at any time, so I just have to really stay zoned into the match.”
After beating Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round, Anisimova saved two break points in the third game of the opening set to turn the tables on Svitolina, a semifinalist at this event last year. Nabbing the only break of the set, Anisimova held on to clinch the set on her second opportunity.
The second set moved in similar fashion as the Ukrainian earned another break chance on the Anisimova serve, only to find herself on the back foot as the World No.29 took a 0-40 lead two games later. While Svitolina battled back to deuce, Anisimova was undeterred, breaking serve and moving ahead 5-3.
Meanwhile, No.7 seed Kiki Bertens overcame Karolina Muchova 6-2, 6-4 to move into the last 16.
Coming off the back of a successful defence of her title in St Petersburg, the WTA World No.6 showed too much consistency and variety for an opponent who has stormed up the rankings since reaching the quarter-finals in Qatar 12 months ago.
“I was really happy with the level I played today. My serving was great – I saved all the break points I faced – and I missed only one break point that I won, so on the important points I was there,” she said.
“I hadn’t played her before but I’d seen her play and I knew she’d be really aggressive, coming to the net so I knew I had to play aggressive myself. If she was able to play aggressive, she’d have been able to get to the net and put me under pressure.”
No.15 seed Maria Sakkari celebrated breaking into the Top 20 of the WTA Rankings for the first time by making safe progress through the first round of the Qatar Total Open by overcoming Julia Goerges, 6-4, 6-3 in one hour 22 minutes.
Ahead of the encounter, the German held a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over her rival and she had won both previous hard court meetings. That statistic, however, would be obliterated by the Greek, who got out to quick starts in both sets and thereafter showed a steady level to secure the match.
Indeed, the 24-year-old took the opening four games in both sets to secure her passage through to the second round in Doha for the first time in three visits.
“She’s a great player. She’s got a big serve and a big game. You have to be careful with her and you have to come up with a good game plan to beat her,” Sakkari said.
Kazakh star Elena Rybakina continued her glittering start to the year, backing up her two runner-up finishes in the last two weeks with another opening round victory over Sorana Cirstea, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Rybakina took a narrow defeat in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to Simona Halep over the weekend — having also reached the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy final the week before — and was made to battle yesterday against Cirstea, a former World No.21, before bouncing back after one hour and 41 minutes on Centre Court.
The 20-year-old Rybakina has amassed an impressing 19-4 record in her first five tournaments of the season, winning the Hobart International and reaching three other finals. Three of her four defeats have been against Top 10 opposition, while she defeated the likes of Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova en route to the final in Dubai.
Against Cirstea, the No.14 seed suffered a slower start than usual, twice falling behind a break of serve before the Romanian closed the door, breaking a third time to capture the opening set.
Rybakina rebounded from there, shaking off a lost 3-1 lead in the second set to nonetheless level the match and win the first nine points of the decider.
While Cirstea soon got on the board, Rybakina wouldn’t be denied, scoring an insurance break behind a thunderous backhand return before serving out her spot in the second round.
Awaiting her there is Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, who dispatched Polona Hercog in straight sets on Sunday.
Amanda Anisimova (USA) bt 5-Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3, 6-3; 7-Kiki Bertens (NED) bt Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-2, 6-4.
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) bt (Timea Babos (HUN) 6-3, 6-4; Anett Kontaveit (EST) bt Anastasija (LAT) 6-4, 7-6 (3), Barbora Strycova (CZE) bt Petra Martic (CRO) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; Q-Tereza Martincova (CZE) bt LL-Misaka Doi (JPN) 6-2, 3-6, 6-2; Carla Suarez Navarro bt Shuai Zhang (CHN) 7-5, 6-0; Saisai Zheng (CHN) bt 12-Marketa Vondrusova (CZE) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2; 15-Maria Sakkari (GRE) bt Julia Georges (GER) 6-4, 6-3; WC-Vera Zvonareva (RUS) bt Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) 6-4, 6-4; Iga Swiatek (POL) bt 17-Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-4, 7-5; Dayana Yastremska (UKR) bt Q-Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-2, 6-4; 14-Elena Rybakina (KAZ) bt WC-Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Sofia Kenin (US) & Belinda Bencic (SUI) bt 8-Demi Schuurs (NED) & Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 7-6(5); WC-Carla Buyukakcay (TUR) & Laura Siegemund (GER) bt WC-Caroline Garcia (FRA) & Sania Mirza (IND) 6-4, 7-5; Lucie Hradecka (CZE) & Andreja Klepac (SLO) bt Shuai Zhang & Saisai Zheng (CHN) 3-6, 6-3, 10-7; Shuai Peng (CHN) & Xinyun HAN (CHN) bt Magda Linette (POL) & Patricia Maria Tig (ROU) 6-3, 6-2; 6-Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) & Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) bt Kaitlyn Christian (USA) & Oksana Kalashnikova (GEO) 6-2, 6-2.
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