Top seed and world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus says she is rapidly building momentum as she bids to get her first trophy in the new season ahead of her opening match at this week’s Qatar TotalEnergies Open.
Sabalenka, who gets a bye in the first round along with seven other players, reached the Round of 16 in Dubai last week. Last month Sabalenka reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam.
Before the start of the Australian Open, the 23-year-old Minsk-born lost the Adelaide International 2 final against Rebecac Peterson. A week earlier, she was beaten by Kaja Juvan in the Adelaide International title clash.
Winner of six career titles, Sabalenka could add one more trophy to her cabinet if she successfully tackles a field that includes a number of Grand Slam champions including Garbine Muguruza of Spain, Iga Swiatek of Poland, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Angelique Kerber of Germany and Jelena Ostapenka of Latvia.
The six-foot tall right-hander – who won the Qatar Open title two years ago - yesterday said she is in a good space at the moment despite being without a trophy in the first two months of the 2022 season.
“(Dubai) was (a) tough week. I would say I didn’t perform my best, but I gave everything I had. I felt like things are slowly getting back. I’m working hard and hopefully I can do better here,” Sabalenka said yesterday.
“I’m really happy to be here. It’s an amazing tournament. I have a lot of good memories from here,” she added. “I like the conditions (smiling). It suits my game well. Yeah, I like it,” the top seed said. “It’s really strong tournament here. Every match is a battle here,” she said.
“But I would say that everywhere every match is a battle for us, and every match, every tournament is (a) challenge. I’m open for all these challenges and looking forward to all these matches,” Sabalenka said. “I (have) won this tournament once and hopefully I can do it again,” she said.
Muguruza, who is seeded five in Doha, yesterday said she felt ‘battle-ready for the premier seven-day tournament that offers a staggering $380,000 to the winner besides 900 WTA Tour points. “So far (so) good,” Muguruza, last year’s losing finalist, said yesterday. “I have been training, I have been getting ready. It’s a tournament that I have played (at for) so many years. I know, I think, how it is and how to prepare,” the 28-year-old said. “… just waiting for an opponent and hopefully I can start tomorrow.”
The two-time Grand Slam winner said Doha presented a windy challenge to players appearing in the 64-player field. “Conditions are kind of windy here always. It’s always hot during the day and cold at night. Yeah, pretty much Middle East weather (smiling),” Muguruza said.
“I keep coming (to Doha) because it is a big tournament. It’s important on our calendar. Like you said, I have played well in the past (lost to Petra Kvitova in two finals). I have been very, very, very close to getting the title twice.
“But playing finals, it’s always a very good sign, so I feel like I know how to play here. Hopefully I can bring all of these match experiences into this year’s tournament,” she said.
The Spaniard said she followed Roberto Bautista Agut’s title triumph at the iconic Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex last week.
“I saw that he (Bautista Agut) won the title for a second time (in Doha). I think he won it already in the past. That was a great final. I actually saw the semi-finals and final. Hopefully another Spaniard can get the title, so we conquer Qatar 2022 (smiling),” she said with a smile.
Muguruza, last year’s WTA Tour-ending championships winner, yesterday said she may not venture out for sightseeing in Doha but is aware of the construction blitz in the country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Qatar later this year.
“There has been a lot of construction lately here in Doha. There are a couple of high profile museums that seem interesting, and obviously the gigantic mall they built here. So far I don’t have plans to do (venture out) much. I just want to concentrate and rest for the tournament,” she added.      
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