Polish tennis star Iga Swiatek on Thursday stunned top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to set up a semi-final clash against sixth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Swiatek won 6-2, 6-3 against the 2020 Qatar champion as the 2020 French Open winner completed her first win in two career matches over the experienced rival at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex.
Also yesterday, Dubai winner Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia produced a compact performance to crush fifth seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain in straight sets to reach the semi-finals. Ostapenko, making her sixth appearance in Doha, won 6-2, 6-2 for her 14th victory of the season, the highest by any player in 2022.
The 24-year-old Latvian has now reached her third semi-final of the year after making it to last-four stages at St Petersburgh and Dubai. Ostapenko has stretched her winning streak to nine matches, a personal best.
Today Ostapenko will meet Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, the fourth seed who yesterday broke Tunisian hearts when she beat eighth seed Ons Jabeur in straight sets to reach the semi-finals. Kontaveit, with one title under her belt this year, won 6-4, 6-1.
Yesterday, Sakkari maintained her dominance over Coco Gauff as she beat the American for the third time in four matches on the WTA Tour. Sakkari fired five aces to complete a 6-3, 6-3 win in 1 hour and 26 minutes. It was her third successive victory over an American player in Doha following wins over Ann Li and Jessica Pegula.
Swiatek broke Sabalenka four times in the first set and then and another two times to complete her resounding win in just 1 hour and 15 minutes.
“I was waiting for this match was quite stressful as it was my first quarter-final on a hard court at a tournament like this,” Swiatek said yesterday. “I just wanted to stay focused as I did in the last few rounds here. I knew Aryna was going to play strong so I am really that my mental game was to the point,” the 21-year-old added.
Ostapenko yesterday broke Muguruza three times in each of the two sets to completely dominate the fifth seed in Doha.
“I’m really happy with the level I was playing today. I think I was dictating the game very well and obviously I knew she’s a great player, so it was always going to be a tough match. I was really ready for it, ready for a battle. But I think it was a bit easier than I expected,” Ostapenko said yesterday.
“I love to play here. I have great memories from this tournament. I’m just enjoying the week. I’m in playing good tennis and just looking forward to the next one,” the 2016 runners-up in Qatar said.
About her semi-final against Estonia’s Konatveit today, Ostapenko said: “Of course, it’s going to be a tough match, but I’m really ready for a battle and I hope you guys enjoy it,” she added.
After being equal for the first nine games against Jabeur, Kontaveit, 26, broke the diminutive Tunisian in game 10 to close the first set at 6-4. With momentum on her side, Kontaveit, making her fifth appearance in Doha, won the first game of the second set and then broke Jabeur again in game two. Another service break in game sic saw Kontaveit complete a straight-sets win.
“It was really a very competitive first set. I think it was so even until we were 5-4 and then I managed to play the good points and take the first set,” Kontaveit said yesterday. “That really helped my level and I had a fun game. I was really enjoying myself today,” she added.
“I have just gained a lot of confidence,” Kontaveit said when asked about her sixth semi-finals appearance at her last seven events. “I feel every tournament I play, I can go deep. I have this self-belief that I was perhaps lacking before. That’s made the biggest difference,” she added with a smile.
Gauff uncharacteristically was guilty of 26 unforced errors as Sakkari, 27, reached her 15th quarter-final on a hardcourt besides playing the last-four at Roland Garros last year. Sakkari broke Gauff in the very first game and then once more in the ninth to seal the first set at 6-3. In the second set, Sakkari – making her fourth appearance in Doha - broke Gauff in games two and four before closing out the set at 6-3.
By virtue of her win yesterday, Sakkari has now moved into her sixth semi-final at the WTA 1000 level or above following Wuhan 2017, Rome 2019, Miami 2021, Roland Garros 2021 and the US Open 2021.
“I’m actually very happy with where my game is right now. I’m just enjoying myself, enjoying my tennis,” Sakkari said yesterday. “I think it was a very solid match today from my side. I had to come up with some very good tennis throughout the match because Coco is a very tough opponent. So I’m just, as I said, very pleased and very excited to be in the semi-finals,” she added.
“…being one of the top 10 players right now, I feel like I’m here for a reason. I’m here because my tennis is at a very high level. So sometimes it’s like I don’t have to show up on court. Tennis-wise, it’s just that sometimes I don’t have to do that much in order to win. It’s just that emotionally and mentally, you have to be there all the time, but sometimes you don’t need 100 percent of your tennis to win matches,” Sakkari explained.
“So I think, you know, obviously for the reasons why I said earlier, my tennis was not great on my first round match, but obviously today’s match was a lot higher and a lot better. You need to save energy in order to go deep every week,” she said.