Consistency Is Key To Kvitova’s Doha Success

Petra Kvitova (photo: @samer_alrejjal/Qatar Total Open)

DOHA/WASHINGTON, March 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Coming into the semifinal round of the WTA 500 Qatar Total Open, the last four left competing in Doha included three Top 20 players – all former Grand Slam champions – and an outsider. All week, the outsider, 44th-ranked Jessica Pegula of the United States, had been on the cusp of breaking through the glass ceiling.

However, 2018 Doha champion Petra Kvitova had other plans. On Friday night, playing against windy conditions blowing in from the Persian Gulf, the two-time Wimbledon champion endured four breaks of her own serve while breaking Pegula’s service three times in each set of their one hour and 21-minute match. Once the winds died down, Kvitova prevailed 6-4, 6-4 to advance to her third Qatar Total Open final and third in the past four years.

Tennis TourTalk asked Kvitova why she thinks she does so well in Doha. “Well, that’s a good question,” she said smiling at the virtually assembled group of worldwide reporters. “I would love to know it, as well, why I’m playing well in Doha. I would love to play everywhere very well, but of course, sometimes it’s not easy.

“It’s tough. I mean, in Doha we have so many conditions. Like today was so windy, and I’m not sure if it was a matter of tennis but it was really about putting a lot of balls into the court. But then, Jessica played really great and I really had to play great, as well.

“Overall, I think I just like the conditions. I mean, [the balls are] flying very nicely. The court is a bit slower, but still, I have a good rhythm for it, so that’s important.”

From 0-3 down in the second set, the World No. 10 Kvitova showed why she’s one of the best players when it counts most as she recovered and won six of the final seven games of the match.

“I think in these conditions you can’t really go for the aces,” said Kvitova, seeded fourth this week in Doha. “You just have to, you know, put it somehow in there, because it’s pretty dangerous to play from the second serve or when it’s really windy like today.. That was probably how we played, both of us, actually.

“Sometimes, of course, if you are up or down, you just try to risk a little bit the serve, which I did a few times. I made some points from it as well, especially, you know, the last game was very important for me, because from that side I couldn’t win the game.

“I’m glad how I was able to come back from break down in the second set, 3-love down, and 4-2 and I was still able to make it. So, that’s really good for me.”

Pegula and Kvitova had met once before, in the third round of last year’s US Open, won by the Czech star. However, the Buffalo, N.Y.-native Pegula arrived on Center Court at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex as one of the rising stars of 2021 – arguably one the hottest players on hard courts – on a mission. She advanced through three rounds of qualifying to gain a berth in the main draw, then won three consecutive straight-set matches to earn her place along side the major champions. She entered the semifinal on a six-match winning streak and 12 victories this year.

As their semifinal wore on, Kvitova remained solid and steady, and it was impressive how she rallied through the hard-fought match. Pegula, who had no days off as she went from qualifying straight into the main draw, can gain solace from the fantastic week she enjoyed following her quarterfinal run at the Australian Open. By next week, she will crack the Top 40 with a career-best ranking in the mid-30s.

Meanwhile, just as the first set of the Kvitova-Pegula clash was winding down, two-time Doha champion and No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka from Belarus withdrew from her semifinal match against unseeded Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain due to a back injury. The walkover win by the World No. 16 Muguruza advanced her to her second WTA final of the season, and in facing Kvitova it will be a rematch of their 2018 Doha final.

In a statement, the World No. 14 Azarenka said: “I am very sorry to have to let you know that I have to withdraw from the semifinal here in Doha tonight. Unfortunately, the pain in my back that I experienced during yesterday’s match has not gone away enough in order for me to be able to compete tonight. I have loved being back here in Doha this week, and want to thank the tournament and everyone involved with the organization of this great event for hosting us and making it possible to play during these challenging times.

“I am very appreciative of being awarded a wildcard to compete here this week, and I am looking forward to being back in Doha again next year. Lastly, wishing all the remaining players in the draw the best of luck for the remainder of the tournament.”

Muguruza said she was surprised by the news of the walkover, saying it’s not “the classic way to reach the finals, but at the end of the day, I’m in the final, so it’s a good sign that I’m in that position.

“Just wishing [Vika] to recover. I saw yesterday that she might be struggling. I hope she recovers.”

Melichar/Schuurs win Doha doubles title

No. 2 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands, won their second WTA doubles together following their 6-2, 2-6,10-8 over Monica Niculescu of Romania and Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia in 75 minutes. This week, Melichar and Schuurs won six of the eight full sets they played in and both of their match tie-breaks.

With their four-victory run to the Doha title following a semifinal performance at the Australian Open, Melichar and Schuurs are off to an outstanding 10-3 start in 2021. Last year, they teamed to win their first WTA title on clay at Strasbourg, France. Since forming in Rome last season, Melichar and Schuurs have won 14 of their 18 matches.

What they’re saying

Garbiñe Muguruza on having an unexpected day off after receiving a walkover into Saturday’s final: “I think it’s good for my body after a few good matches to have a day off and prepare for the last match. I take it as a positive thing and I can start thinking about tomorrow’s match.”

• Muguruza on facing Petra Kvitova in the final: “I think it’s going to be a tough match. I’m just looking forward to playing [the final] and winning the trophy.”

• Kvitova on her consistency, in which she’s won three straight matches to reach the final: “I had [a] great three matches against three great players which, you know, always gives you confidence. So, that’s what I’m really pleased with.

“Yeah, it’s the final; I love finals. Doesn’t matter how it will end up. Just being in the final of the tournament is already great. I will really enjoy it. I am really enjoying [the] whole week here in Doha.”