Match Points, 27th of February, 2016: Highlights of the Qatar Total Open in Doha

The Dubai-Doha swing has been eventful to say the least… while we actually saw seeds progress to the latter rounds of Doha and one of them actually go on to win it, there were plenty of upsets again. Indian Wells should be an interesting one to see if some of the slumping members of the top ten can resurrect their years. Here’s my round-up of the 2016 Qatar Total Open in Doha…

Match Points

Singles Champion

Carla Suárez Navarro won her biggest title to date with a 1-6 6-4 6-4 win over Jelena Ostapenko in the final. After the quick first set, I really didn’t expect this result. Credit to Carla who showed an impressive amount of resilience to stay with Ostapenko and eventually force her younger opponent into making errors. Her leap into the team box at the end was lovely to see. For a full recap of the match, check out my review over at Women’s Tennis Blog.

Doubles Champions

Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan won their second title of the year, defeating the Dubai and Doha singles champions, Sara Errani and Carla Suárez Navarro in the final, 6-3 6-3.

Completed Singles Draw

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WTA rollercoaster scorelines

Eugenie Bouchard d. Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7 6-3 7-6(4) (R1) – Sevastova led 7-5 *2-1, then was up *4-0 and 5-2* in the third set, having two match points at 6-5*

Timea Babos d. Madison Brengle, 3-6 7-5 6-0 (R1) – Brengle led 6-3 *5-5 *Adv-40

Sara Errani d. Tsvetana Pironkova, 1-6 7-5 6-3 (R2) – Pironkova led 6-1 4-4* Adv-40*

Elena Vesnina d. Simona Halep, 6-7(1) 6-4 6-1 – Halep led 7-6(1) 4-1 *40-40

Tennis worth catching up with…

There were plenty of decent matches this past week in Doha and I have a long list that i’m going to try and catch up with before they disappear on TennisTV!

Agnieszka Radwanska d. Roberta Vinci, 3-6 6-2 6-3 (QF)

The match of the week, month, and perhaps, year was Radwanska-Vinci. In a refreshing change-up with 101 (!) ventures into the net, Radwanska and Vinci put on a clinic of old-school tennis. Radwanska fought back from a set down, producing some moments of magic along the way. Vinci though, played a great match herself and was outplaying Radwanska in the first set.

Andrea Petkovic d. Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-1 5-7 6-2 (QF)

It started off a little one-sided but once Muguruza got stuck in, this was a quality match. There were some great rallies and commitment from both sides with the standard being raised several notches from the middle of the second set to the middle of the third set. Petkovic was almost flawless in the third set, while Muguruza looked emotionally frazzled by the end after a frosty exchange with her coach, Sam Sumyk.

Agnieszka Radwanska d. Monica Niculescu, 7-5 6-1 (R3)

A recommendation from one of my Twitter followers, Peter… it’s still on my list to watch back in full but some of the points I saw were great!

Roberta Vinci d. Daria Kasatkina, 2-6 6-4 7-6(3) (R2)

The 18-year-old, Kasatkina, continues to impress and had three match points to defeat Vinci in this entertaining contest. The Italian player continues to tough out wins and is playing next week in Kuala Lumpur… I wonder if she is gunning for Singapore and trying to take advantage of her good form right now?

Eugenie Bouchard d. Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7 6-3 7-6(4) (R1)

Third set tiebreaks are always fun. Bouchard battled back from a set and a break down, and match point down (in somewhat fortuitous fashion) to rescue her first round match against Sevastova; the Latvian player has a wonderful game but didn’t quite have the mental toughness to pull out the win

Tweets I liked

Facebook Posts

Stats

The stats from the wonderful quarter-final match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Roberta Vinci.

Great, great week for Saisai but… ZERO?!

Garbiñe Muguruza was clutch during during her 6-2 7-5 third round victory over Timea Babos.

Funny GIFs/Vines

Best points/shots

A pair of hotshots from the Radwanska-Vinci match…

And another one from Aga in her match against Monica Niculescu… Guy McCrea’s reactions are almost as good as the shots haha!

Ana Konjuh saved EIGHT match points before finally succumbing to Caroline Wozniacki in the first round. Love the tweet below with a video of some her best shots; the last one was down match point, a forehand she absolutely pounded away for a winner!

Memorable handshakes

Ahh this is always nice to see.

I regret including one of Jelena Ostapenko a few weeks ago which wasn’t even that bad so here’s a favourable handshake to make up for it!

And another nice one between Suárez Navarro and Vesnina.

Interviews

Elena Vesnina’s second round win over Simona Halep clearly meant a lot to her.

Smiling Petra… that’s all we need!

Kerrrrazy

Really warming to Kasatkina both on and off the court. And a great week for Vesnina too!

Favourite articles

WTA Insider produced a couple of great articles with the players this week… check out the Insider piece with Alla Kudryavtseva HERE and a first diary post from Nicole Gibbs HERE.

Fantasy Games

Racket Rally: Ma01dp (my brother) has gone top this week and won’t shut up about it. He bought in Buyukakcay so he was generally unbearable after she beat Safarova. Cuevas and Fritz have also helped him into the top 3 worldwide for RR. After a promising start, i’ve tailed off! I’ll be using the next two weeks to get ready for Indian Wells and Miami. To join RR or update your team, click HERE.

Tennis Draw Challenge: I didn’t come last in Doha so yay me… Tom and Harj31426 were the joint winners for Doha, while ajdurso has already won for Acapulco, correctly predicting a Cibulkova-Stephens final. More details on how to join in the fun can be found HERE.

These last few tennis weeks have been a little bit crazy to follow. I’ll put up my draw predictions for Kuala Lumpur and Monterrey but will probably take a week off to recuperate the brain and get ready for Indian Wells and Miami…

33 thoughts on “Match Points, 27th of February, 2016: Highlights of the Qatar Total Open in Doha

  1. Well that was a ‘crazy tournament’ to say the least:) again more of the top ranked players falling like flies early.

    Credit and a well deserved title to CSN,I loved the way she dismantled Aga,like you James I also like the way she rebounded in the final after the first set.I would also like to give credit to Jelena,she is a very promising young player.Keep working Hard Jelena!

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    • Agreed. Carla had a great tournament and fully deserved her title, especially after coming back from being a set down; she’s got a great backhand in particular.

      She’s always seemed fairly emotionless on the court so seeing her jump into the player’s box at the end was a nice touch. I wonder if other players will start doing it now?

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    • What’s the definition of a “weak era” in tennis. Please explain!

      Carla Suárez Navarro has been playing professionally since 2003 and she just won second WTA title. Yet, you called this era a weak one.

      If a single player keeps winning in every tournament, people will complain. If the tournament becomes very open and no one is sure of a winner, people will still complain. What else do you then want?

      Only few could argue Serena Williams is the best female tennis player right now. At her best, she’s better than everyone.Yet, She lost the US open and Australian open and you call this a weak era.

      Some tennis fans are calling the present ATP a weak era simply because Djockovic is dominating. But when their favourite Federer was winning every tournaments, it was a strong era. Obviously, no one can’t please everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agree with this, I think it depends what you like but there will always be someone complaining about the state of the respective tours. Personally, I’m quite enjoying the WTA tour right now. February has been nuts but one of the things it does show is the depth on tour right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks James for all the predictions.

        I am also enjoying the WTA tour at the moment. The field is so strong and competitive and there is no easy match for anyone. This explains the reason why players such as Azarenka, Cibulkova, Bouchard to name a few are finding it hard to get into top 10 again.

        I will still expect an upset at Indian Well because there won’t be any easy rounds.

        Strong field = Strong era. The WTA tour right now is strong, competitive, challenging and therefore interesting.

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    • I see this “weak era” meme a lot, but it wasn’t that long ago where the top players would scythe their way through the early rounds of a slam tournament with scores of 6-1, 6-1 or 6-1, 6-2 because they were head and shoulders above all their opposition.

      That simply doesn’t happen now. As Maria has admitted, you don’t get easy rounds in tournaments any more. Even Serena got close to being eliminated last year at Wimbledon and by a player she was expected to make short work of.

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  2. Ever since I saw carla play against agnieszka in aus open this year, I’m in love with her game. Not in her appearance though. She needs to be a bit more representable. I like her single hande backhand and the way she handles the rally
    Honestly, if she is playing against non hard hitters she can play beautifully.

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  3. Also it should be mentioned that Sloane Stephens just won her third title in less than 12 months at Acapulco and is knocking on the door of the top 20 again. She could be one to watch over the coming month.

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  4. WTA ranking is a mess. It doesn’t represent the actual performance of any player. A top 100 can beat a top 10 anytime. If this is not a weak ear, what do you call it regardless whether you like it or not?

    Unlike ATP, they are more consistent though we do have some upsets sometimes. When you don’t have a dominant player. The tour is a mess and weak.

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    • Think about it Frank, you don’t necessarily have to a dominant player to make it strong. You could have highly competitive and consistent players and that should be fine. I agree with more consistent play. I actually enjoy the tour when there are strong consistent rivalries amongst the women without a dominant force.

      Some players are simply a mis-match for others, but I wouldn’t mind a player like Petra constantly challenging Serena, losing some winning some. But, the problem as you know, is not a loss of talent, but that on/off Petra saga. This happens more on the women’s tour hence things like on “court coaching’. You do see it occasionally on the men’s with players like Monfils, but it is abysmal on the women’s side.

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      • Sure, a top 100 player can beat a top 10 player if the top 100 player has a good day and the top 10 player a bad one, but there’s still a difference between the two and the main one is consistency. The top 10 player is able to grind out wins match after match and thus go deep into tournaments.

        Someone like Angie Kerber is going to win more matches against lesser ranked players than she’s going to lose, even if she sometimes loses on a bad day. Maria Sharapova, who’s ranked no. 7. very rarely loses to a player ranked outside the top 20.

        As for it being a weak era, could any woman player from a different era have beaten, say, Serena in the final at Miami last year? Or Petra in the 2014 Wimbledon final, however inconsistent she may have been since?

        Where I do think it is unfair is when players come back from long layoffs following injury or operations. As an example, Domi Cibulkova IMO should be ranked a lot higher than no. 57; she’s beaten both Maria and Aga Radwanska three times each and beaten Ana Ivanovic the last two times they played each other.

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  5. I’m often loath to compare the women’s and men’s tour, regardless of price money parity. But it seems on the women’s tour the ranking system is more or less purely mathematical with a majority of the women. It is what it is, but I’m not too sure if any thing can be done to overhaul the system since it is fairly representative for the ATP.

    Though, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it weak in that regard. Certainly not as consistently strong competition wise as the ATP, but it is the women’s tour, and there are some nuances to consider when compared with the men. What I feel needs to be worked on is the tournament scheduling so as to reduce the wear and tear on the bodies and tweak the points gain for some tournaments( encourage participation).

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  6. I much prefer an ‘even playing field’ when it comes to tennis and its players,of course as we have seen during the different tennis era’s there has always been ‘stand out champions’ in the men’s and women’s tours.
    I used to snooze when Federer was winning everything,most of the time he won in the locker room,same thing is happening with Novak these days.

    In the women’s tour presently,Serena is the ‘stand out champion’ though as we have seen at the AO she is beatable and also last year at the USO.I think there is great depth in both the ATP and WTA as we have witnessed in the tournaments recently.

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  7. Another fun set of tournaments and a fitting end to a “crazy” month! Your break from tennis is well-earned, James, but I wouldn’t stray too far since (Andy) Murray vs. Nishikori will probably be the highlight from the upcoming Davis Cup round. Exactly one year ago I got to see Kei face Milos in Vancouver and it was a monster of a match!

    My humble thoughts of the week:

    – My favourite player, Alexandr Dolgopolov, showed precisely why he is so entertaining when he plays well, as he did against Ferrer… and then he also showed why he’s so frustrating to cheer for when he collapsed against Tomic, losing his rhythm, range, and intensity after barnstorming the first set.
    – A good week for the one-handed backhands with Sloane Stephens being the only double-handed winner of the five (Suarez Navarro, Wawrinka, Thiem, and Cuevas were the others).
    – After going nearly winless post-Wimbledon, I didn’t think Carla Suarez Navarro’s ranking would go up until possibly later this year (having so many points to defend early on), yet here she is, the new world #6 by a comfortable margin!
    – So Sania and Martina finally lost. I suppose they had to stumble eventually (right, Novak?), although I’m now curious if Kasatkina just secured an Olympic doubles birth alongside Vesnina.
    – Speaking of doubles, Isner and Raonic are paired on the entry list for Indian Wells. I’m actually intrigued – Milos has the great net game and newly consistent return-of-serve (relatively speaking), while John seems to have recently developed good defensive skills out of nowhere. Just take cover if they face Pospisil/Sock, Herbert/Mahut, or Dimitrov/Mirnyi. Aces ahoy!
    – Big “welcome back”s to Cibulkova and Baghdatis! Both are absolute fighters and tennis is far better for their presense in the upper levels where they belong.
    – Two in a row for Cuevas, winning the Sao Paolo battle of the Pablos (against Careno Busta). Similarly, I should have mentioned last time that the Columbian pair of Cabal/Farah won two weeks in a row then finally lost to eventual champions Huey and Mirnyi 10-7 in a super-tiebreak in the Acapulco semis. They’re up to #3 on the team doubles race.
    – Vinci vs. Radwanska. Enough said.
    – Finally, huge congrats to the youngsters this month for making very significant impacts all over both tours: Daria Kasatkina, Belinda Bencic, Jelena Ostapenko, Sasha Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Taylor Fritz, Bernard Tomic, and, of course, Dominic Thiem.

    Thanks as always for the wonderful posts!

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    • Thanks for the comment, Alexander! Still keeping an eye on the results this week although both WTA tournaments are not in ideal timezones for watching.
      – Good point about all the one-handed BHs (you must be a fan based on your name). Excited about Thiem who was the one new player I had creeping into my year-end top ten for the ATP. Still slightly wary whether he can translate these results to the bigger events but very promising nonetheless.
      – I’m surprised about Carla to be honest, she really tailed off at the back end of 2015. The win over Ostapenko in the final could be a big one for her confidence.
      – Kasatkina and Vesnina are looking good for the Olympics although (and i’m not really up with the qualification rules) that Kasatkina might need to improve her singles ranking. Makarova seems to be concentrating on singles right now.
      Indian Wells always has some great doubles pairing and just saw some names announced… I was most interested to see Kyrgios-Zverev although they are on the alternate list for now.
      – Great few weeks for Cuevas, my brother keeps me up to date with his progress since he has him in Racket Rally.
      – February’s been a crazy month but one big plus has been some of the up-and-comers having breakthrough tournaments. I’ve been losing interest in the ATP of late but i’m really encouraged to see some of the teens do well, particularly Zverev and Fritz. I’m most excited about Zverev who I really enjoy watching.

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  8. Good post Alexander.

    It’s a good month for smaller players too. All three of the players selected to be chosen between for the WTA’s Player of the Month for February – Carla Suarez Navarro, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci – are under 5′ 6″ tall. Plus, Domi Cibulkova (5′ 3″) made the final in Acapulco, as did Bara Strycova (5′ 4 1/2″)

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  9. Maria Sharapova to give a press conference? even though I have never been a Sharapova fan,I hope she isnt going to retire,at age 29.

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    • Yes, tonight. I feel exactly the same, not a fan but hope it’s not retirement. There are so many rumours flying around at the minute. I’d be shocked if it was retirement, her hand/shoulder or something else would have to be in a bad state to end it. I was concerned though when she pulled out of IW, over a week before she would have played her first match. It could be Sugarpova related but the vibe seems to be something negative. Again, i’d be shocked if it was retirement but must be a big deal to have a press conference about it!

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      • I think it could be retirement as to my knowledge Maria hasn’t called a press conference for any other decision she’s made concerning her career.

        I don’t like her screaming on court or, tbh, much enjoy her game but I certainly respect her mental strength and consistency; she very rarely loses to a player ranked lower than 20.

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    • Well, a failed drugs test it is. If she is given a lengthy ban she might as well call it a day, no ? I do sympathise with her eloquent explanation but the rules are the rules and you can only bend them so far to accommodate this or that. It will come down to what the wta decides to do.
      Still a smart move on her part to fill us in before the cat is let out of the bag, a seasoned business athlete she is.

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      • Yeah, I knew it wasn’t going to be good news but I’m still surprised to find out that it was a failed drugs test.

        Brad Gilbert has said that he thinks it was an honest mistake on Maria’s part, that as she said she started taking this mildronate before it was added to the proscribed substances list and on the instructions of her doctor, as treatment for a medical condition. When it did eventually appear on this list it was under a different name and not one Maria was familiar with.

        I generally respect his judgment so I have to agree.

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