DOHA, February 29, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
Petra Kvitova lost to Ashleigh Barty four times in the past year after she had dominated their head-to-head series by winning the first four times, including a quarterfinal round victory en route to the final of the 2019 Australian Open. On Friday evening in Doha, in the semifinals of the Qatar Total Open, Kvitova used her tactical brilliance to beat the reigning World No. 1 and French Open champion from Australia, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
The victory advanced the eighth-seeded Czech star, who lifted the trophy in Doha back in 2018, into Saturday’s WTA Premier 5 final against Aryna Sabalenka. The No. 9 seed from Belarus shrieked her way to a 6-4, 6-3 win over unseeded No. 46 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
“I pushed myself a lot to go more deeper to the court, not to flying back on the Qatar sign,” said Kvitova, quoted by the WTA Tour website after her victory. “I tried that she couldn’t have put me away from the baseline that much, so I took time from her and she couldn’t do that much with her forehand.
“That was kind of the key, to try near by the baseline and just play from there and still pushing to the court. … I did have chances in the last meetings with her as well, but today I was just maybe … braver and that’s how it is.”
Kvitova called her one hour and 51 minute win over Barty “kind of physical” and it came on the heals of a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) quarterfinal victory over the surprising Ons Jabeur a day earlier.
”I think Ash started to play more slices in the beginning of the second set, so it took me awhile to get to used to and be back in my game with my aggressive game, which I tried to play in the first set.
“The match was pretty exhausting anyway, but I know that I can play those rallies every point, but if I have to, I’m really glad that I am able to do it.”
— WTA (@WTA) February 28, 2020
Although Barty failed to reach the final of her second straight tournament after winning a title in Adelaide last month, she’s still a very respectable 11-3 this season.
“It’s been a very positive week, it really has, and tonight was no different,” said Barty during her post-match press conference, quoted by the WTA Tour website. “It was an exceptional match. Obviously you look at a match and you debrief it to the nth degree, but I think another really great contest with Petra.
“I love testing myself against her and (it was) a match in where she played extremely well and took the match away from me in key moments.
“I think Petra was able to take it away from three at the 3-all game. From, I think it was 15-30, she went two return winners in a row and off of good first serves. I didn’t miss my spots, and you tip your hat. That’s high quality tennis and Petra is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional competitor and tennis player, and she showed that tonight why she’s a champion.”
Next, Barty will head for the United States to prep for back-to-back WTA Premier Mandatory hard court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, which takes up nearly all of the March WTA calendar.
Sabalenka reaches 10th WTA final
Meanwhile, before Kvitova heads for North America, she will head into Saturday’s championship match in Doha with a 2-1 head-to-head advantage against Sabalenka, who is eight years younger. All three matches have been on hard courts, which the Qatar final will be contested on. In their most recent meeting, Kvitova beat Sabalenka last year in Sydney in straight sets.
In her Qatar debut, Sabalenka reached her 10th WTA final with her victory against Kuznetsova, who was a 2007 finalist and had won 19 matches over 11 different visits to Doha, a tournament record she holds with Caroline Wozniacki. On Thursday, Sabalenka advanced with a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over Zheng Saisai in the quarterfinals and earlier in the tournament beat both 22nd-ranked Anett Kontaveit and No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari.
“I’m really happy to be in the final here, especially because it’s my first time here,” Sabalenka said. “It’s really nice and I’m really happy with the level I’m playing right now and well, we’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow, but for sure I will bring everything I have.”
— WTA (@WTA) February 28, 2020
Hsieh/Strycova win third title of season
Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan will return to the top of the WTA doubles rankings next week. On Friday night, she and Barbora Strycova from Czech Republic won their third doubles title of the season. The top seeds defeated No. 6 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, 6-2, 5-7, 10-2, in a one-hour and 30-minute final.
Come Monday, Hsieh will begin her ninth non-consecutive week ranked No. 1 in the WTA doubles rankings. Her most recent stint at doubles No. 1 came the week of February 3, 2020 and it lasted for three weeks.
The latest title for Hsieh and Strycova is their tour-leading third this year to go along with earlier triumphs in Brisbane and last week at Dubai. They are the second team in WTA history to win back-to-back Dubai and Qatar trophies, joining Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber in 2012.
The moment of victory!
.@BaraStrycova and Hsieh Su-wei beat Dabrowski and Ostapenko 6-2, 5-7, 10-2 to become the 1st team to achieve the Middle East sweep in the same season since @lisaraymond73 and Liezel Huber in 2012. pic.twitter.com/MlZfSti7Ki
— WTA (@WTA) February 28, 2020
What they’re saying
Petra Kvitova on why she loves playing in finals: “I think that I’m still playing better and better when I’m deeper in the tournament, so that’s one of the good things which I have. I’m struggling sometimes in the beginning of the tournament, so that’s how it is. … I always bring something else in the finals and I just love playing finals. That’s why I’m playing tennis, for those trophies, and playing a final is something like that you are very close to have the title, but it’s still very far. .. It’s something bigger than I think, I think it’s just very close there and I just put everything what I have left.”
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) February 28, 2020