By Sports Reporter Doha
Former World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza stunned defending champion Aryna Sabalenka to enter quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open on Wednesday.
In the first three-set singles match of the tournament this year at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, the former Wimbledon and French Open champion ousted No.3 seed Sabalenka 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
Muguruza showed grit and composure in big pressure moments to earn the hard-fought win in two hours and 18 minutes. The Spaniard converted seven of 17 break points, while Sabalenka was only won four of 13.
For Sabalenka, the close loss ended her undefeated record at the event, after winning the title last year in her tournament debut.
Muguruza quickly led 4-0 in the first set and closed out the set without dropping serve, although she did have to fend off breakpoints in the last game before doing so.
That tricky final game was a precursor to the topsy-turvy second set, where Sabalenka wrested control from Muguruza with a big return to break for 5-3. However, Sabalenka then dropped serve in her next two service games, giving Muguruza a chance to serve for the match at 6-5.
Muguruza, though, was unable to close, and the pair advanced to a pivotal tiebreak. There, Sabalenka also saw a 5-3 lead slip to 5-5, but she earned a set point after a netted backhand by Muguruza. Sabalenka converted that chance with an error-forcing backhand, lining up a decisive final set for the first time all week.
Sabalenka took the early lead in the decider, cracking a backhand winner to go up 3-2. But Muguruza gritted out a re-break with her depth and power in the lengthy following game. Muguruza grabbed all the momentum from that point forward, clinching the final four games to obtain victory.
Former champions Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova also entered the quarter-finals with straight-sets wins earlier in the day. Azarenka came through 6-4, 6-2 over qualifier Laura Siegemund, before No.4 seed Kvitova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-3.
Top seed Elina Svitolina and Maria Sakkari claimed quarterfinal spots with comfortable wins on Wednesday evening. Svitolina breezed past lucky loser Misaki Doi, 6-1, 6-2, to reach her third quarter-final of the season.
Sakkari also had a swift day at the office, ousting Madison Keys, 6-2, 6-2 in 68 minutes to claim her spot in the elite eight.
The 2018 Doha champion Kvitova was in scorching form in the 13th edition of a rivalry dating back to 2008.
Eight of Kvitova’s previous encounters with Pavlyuchenkova had gone the distance, but there was little danger of that on Wednesday. The Czech fired 31 winners, kept her unforced error count to 19 and posted a 76% first serve percentage. On three of the four breakpoints she faced, she would bail herself out with clutch serving.
It’s an important win for Kvitova, who has played a handful of matches this season so far.
“I have a disappointing Australian Open outing I have worked a lot on and off the court and I think today, I played pretty solid from the baseline, and I think I moved well, as well. I hope it helped me for the future, for sure,” Kvitova said.
Pegula beat Ostapenko
Australian Open quarterfinalist Jessica Pegula's rich vein of form continued with a 6-2, 7-5 win over 2016 runner-up Jelena Ostapenko. In a contest of aggressive baseline ball-striking, punctuated by the occasional dropshot, the American qualifier was more consistent and better able to rely on her second serve.
Ostapenko’s combination of a 56% first serve percentage while winning only 36% of the points behind her second serve was never going to work out well for her. The Latvian wildcard did hit a thrilling purple patch in the second set, threatening a comeback as she reeled off 12 consecutive points from 2-4 down - but it was all too brief. Ostapenko relapsed into error just as suddenly, and Pegula took 12 of the last 14 points to reach her second quarter-final of the season.
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