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Qatar Open: Kvitova, Azarenka pull out, Seeds have it easy

Petra Kvitova

Bengaluru/Doha, February 23: Defending champion Petra Kvitova and former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus were both forced to withdraw from the WTA Qatar TotalEnergies Open on Tuesday (February 22) while Jelena Ostapenko held off Amanda Anisimova in a match between two of this season's winningest players.

On a day where the top seeds all cruised through at the hard-courts of Khalifa International Tennis and SquashComplex, Kvitova - who won the 2018 and 2021 editions of the WTA tournament, beating Garbine Muguruza in the final on both occasions - was left unable to continue during her clash with Elise Mertens, later tweeting that an injury to her left wrist had flared up during the second set.

The Czech player has enjoyed great success in Doha, where she has made the final in her last three appearances, winning the title last year and 2018.

Her conqueror Mertens will face fourth seed and WTA St Petersburg champion Anett Kontaveit in the round-of-16 after the Estonian's win over Ana Konjuh.

Meanwhile, Azarenka joined Kvitova in announcing her withdrawal through injury, suffering pain in her left hip ahead of her scheduled clash with American Madison Brengle.

Smooth sail for seeds

Meanwhile, seventh seed Iga Swiatek of Poland earned a tough three-set win, battling past a spirited Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

The tournament's top seeds had more luck on a day of few surprises. World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka breezed to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over France's Alize Cornet, with the Belarusian the favourite for the first WTA 1000 event of the year as world No.1 Ashleigh Barty is missing.

Elsewhere, world number three Barbora Krejcikova made light work of Poland's Magda Linette, winning 6-1 6-3, and will face former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the round-of-16, having eliminated the Latvian from last month's Australian Open.

Paula Badosa also recorded a straight-sets victory, seeing off Clara Tauson 6-1 6-2 to reach the last 16, where she will face 17-year-old American Cori Gauff, who defeated France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).

There was also three-set wins for Ons Jabeur, who overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

In the final match of the day, world number six Maria Sakkari downed American Ann Li 6-3, 6-3.

Following on from the previous week's Dubai Duty Free Championships, the Middle East swing concludes with the Qatar TotalEnergies Open in Doha on Saturday (February 26).

WTA 1000 event

The Qatar TotalEnergies Open and Dubai Duty Free Championships alternate between WTA 1000 and WTA 500 levels each year.

With Doha holding the WTA 500 designation last season, this year it is a WTA 1000. Played at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha, the event is played on outdoor hard courts and uses the Dunlop Australian Open ball.

The tournament features a 56-player singles draw and 28-team doubles draw. The top 8 seeds will receive a bye into the second round.

The singles final will be played on Saturday at 6pm local time (8.30pm) while the doubles final be held a day early after the conclusion of the two singles semifinals.

The main top 10 players missing from the Doha field are world No.1 Barty, who opted to skip the Middle East swing, and No.4 Karolina Pliskova, who is still recovering from an ongoing hand injury that has delayed her start to the season.

(With WTA/OPTA inputs)

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Story first published: Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 9:35 [IST]
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