Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Sunday rallied from a set down to beat feisty Yulia Putintseva of Kazkhstan to sign in for the second round of Qatar TotalEnergies Open
Azarenka, the Qatar champion in 2012 and 2013, on Sunday won 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 49 minutes.
The two-time Grand Slam winner fought back from 0-4 down in the deciding set during which Putintseva also held match-point.
“I am so happy to have won here. I always love coming here. I even trained here before I went to Dubai. This feels like home because people are so welcoming,” Azarenka said.
Azrenka, who fired seven aces in the tense three-set battle, added: “Doha is one of my favourtite stops on Tour. I have made such great connections here. I love playing in front of this crowd. I hope I can pick up my game in the next round.”
Fourteenth seed Jessica Pegula of the US yesterday beat Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes.
Pegula, who played the Doha semi-finals last year as a qualifier, hit three aces in her second win over Siniakova.
The American will face Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in the next round at the seven-day tournament.
In a shock result yesterday, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic was shown the door by Denmark’s Clara Tauson in three grueling sets.
Tauson, only the second Danish player to compete at a WTA Tour event in Doha after Caroline Wozniacki, fired 7 aces in her 1 hour and 58-minute win.
“It was a very tough match. I know Belinda is playing very well so I had to play my best today, and I did sometimes,” Tauson said after the match.
“I have my confidence but every match is really tough at this level, so I’m doing my best.” she added.
In another clash, Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck eased past former champion Vera Zvonareva of Russia in straight sets to reach the second round.
Van Uytvanck won 6-4, 6-4 in a minute short of two hours against the 2011 champion in Qatar.
Also yesterday, Juvan of Slovenia kicked off her Qatar campaign with a commanding show against Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland. Juvan won 6-4, 6-2 in 80 minutes.
Romania’s Sorana Cirstea also advanced after she beat Mayar Sherif of Egypt, also in straight sets.
Cirstea, sitting on her highest ever ranking of 30, won 6-2, 6-1 in 68 minutes.
Cirestea, one of three Romanians in the draw, will now play last year’s runner’s-up Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
In another match, Aliaksandra Sasnovic of Belarus beat Shuai Zhang of China 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour’s time.
Sasnovic, 27, fired four aces as she wrapped up the match with ease against her vastly experienced Chinese opponent.
American Madison Brengle eased past Turkey’s Ipek Oz in straight sets. Brengle won 7-5, 6-3. Croatia’s Ana Konjuh beat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in three sets. Konjuh won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.      
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