Top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus on Tuesday looked in a hurry as she demolished French wildcard Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2 to advance at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open. In other matches, defending champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic saw her campaign end with an injury while playing against Belgium’s Elise Mertens on Day Three of the $1.2mn tournament.
Also yesterday, Dubai winner Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia beat Amanda Anisimova of the US. Ostapenko won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in 1 hour and 39 minutes. It was Ostapenko’s seventh straight win in the Dubai-Doha trip. Sabalenka, the Doha champion in 2020, yesterday exhibited sublime form, crushing points from the baseline and on her serve.
The Belarusian, who reached the Round of 16 in Dubai last week, was quick off the blocks to negate the challenge of her inexperienced rival. The 23-year-old Minsk-born broke Cornet in the third game of the first set.
The young French rival managed to save a couple of breakpoints but a long return and an unforced error saw Sabalenka take a 3-1 lead. In game seven, Sabalenka broke Cornet again to jump to a 5-2. A crushing forehand from Sabalenka saw her take the first set at 6-2 in just 40 minutes.
In the second set, Sabalenka – one of six former champions in the Doha draw – broke Cornet in games one and five to carve out another impressive win.
After wrapping up a match without a single breakpoint, Sabalenkla said she had to battle through a few tough rallies. “No, no. It definitely wasn’t easy. It was a really tough match to play, I had to play really well,” Sabalenka said yesterday.
“She pushed me a lot and did well at the start. But I guess I have amazing support here. Thank you guys so much. It’s unbelievable to play in front of fans who cheer for you like this. Thank you for the support,” she added, while waving at the fans present at Centre Court.
Sabalenka said she expected long rallies in the match. “Well, I expected long rallies in this match and I prepared myself for this. I knew that these kinds of rallies would be seen often. My tactic was just to stay in the point as long as I can and try to push her as much as I can. I also tried to serve well,” Sabalenka explained.
When reminded of her previous title win in 2020, Sabalenka said: “It’s an amazing place. I really enjoy every second on the court here and I have the best support in Doha. I feel like being at home. So it would be really amazing to win another title,” she said with a broad smile.
“I really feel the support (of fans) there (in Belraus) also. I know a lot of people are supporting me. I really appreciate their support. They know that I really love them,” she said.
Also yesterday, second seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic beat Poland’s Magda Linette in straight sets. Krejcikova won 6-1, 6-3 in 1 hour and 12 minutes. The 26-year-old is bidding to become the fourth Czech woman to lift the Doha title.
Third seed Spain’s Paula Badosa beat Clara Tauson of Denmark 6-1, 6-2 while American seeded players Coco Gauff and compatriot Jessica Pegula also advanced. Gauff, seeded 14, beat Caroline Garcia of France 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) while Pegula, seeded 9, edged Slovakia’s Kaja Juvan 6-3, 6-3.
Ostapenko, who won her fifth career title last week, also looked impressive yesterday as she battled through her clash against Ainisimova of the US. Back in the top-20 for the first time since October 2018, Ostapenko braved seven aces to emerge victorious in the 1-hour 39-minute marathon.
Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus yesterday pulled out of her match against Madison Brengle because of a hip injury. The 2012 and 2013 Qatar champion beat Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in a feisty contest on Sunday. Brengle will now meet Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the Round of 16.
Muguruza, seeded five, has lost two
finals against Kvitova in Doha – last year and in 2018. Eighth seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia yesterday beat Aliaksandra Sasnovic of Belarus 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in 1 hour and 48 minutes. Despite going down in the first set, Jabeur fired five aces to
lift herself in admirable fashion. Two years ago, Jabeur reached the quarter-finals in Doha.      
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