Photo: Pascal Ratthé
The very first Premier 5 event of the season played out last week in Doha. Though a few members of the Top 10 (Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Serena Williams) were forced to drop out, the Qatari tournament still had its fair share of surprises.
The early exits by Sofia Kenin (6), Karolina Pliskova (3), Alison Riske (13), Petra Martic (10) and Elina Svitolina (5)—none of which made it past the second round—helped turn the spotlight on their competitors.
Aryna Sabalenka (9) of Belarus was given Halep’s spot in the draw and a first-round bye. She put together a string of wins over opponents including Maria Sakkari, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova (8) in the final to secure her sixth career singles title. After the win, she dedicated the championship to her inspiration: her father, who passed away during the preseason.
Petra Kvitova fought hard all week as she battled through a series of three-setters. Her only two-set match, which still took two tiebreakers to decide, was against Ons Jabeur. To reach the final, Kvitova had to overpower World No.1 Ashleigh Barty (6-4, 2-6, 6-4). Though she hoped to add a 28th winner’s trophy to her collection, the Czech champion fell to Sabalenka in two sets (6-3, 6-3).
Although they may not have made it to the ultimate showdown, Kuznetsova and Jabeur still had a fantastic week. Kuznetsova, who hadn’t gone past the third round of a tournament since Cincinnati last August, found her way to the semis with a brilliant win over Belinda Bencic (4). She was eventually shown the door by Sabalenka.
Jabeur, whose season has been off to a great start, defeated Karolina Pliskova (3) to reach the quarters, where Kvitova got the upper hand.
In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and her partner Jelena Ostapenko fell in the final to Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.