Thursday’s Set Points, WTA Doha: Kasatkina topples Kerber again, Cibulkova first into the semi-finals

Set PointsAnother day in Doha and another day of interruptions. There was less rain than previous days but it was that frustrating stop-start kind of rain, so much so I can’t even remember how many stoppages there were. They are still behind in the schedule but all the second round matches were completed which was a must.

In the first match of the day on Centre Court, Daria Kasatkina recorded her second consecutive win over Angelique Kerber, 6-4 0-6 6-4 in two hours and two minutes. I really thought Kerber was going to find some form this week but it was not to be. Kerber is now 4-4 for the year and looking worryingly out-of-form.

Kerber will head to Dubai next week, desperate for matches. I think it’s a little too early to be hitting the panic button but the difference in her level right now between this season and last is pretty huge. For Kasatkina, i’m thrilled to see her picking up again after a quiet spell between Sydney and Dubai.

Caroline Wozniacki defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, 7-5 6-3, to extend her lead in their head-to-head to 10-6. Both players came away with positive stats. It’s rare to see Wozniacki hitting so many winners in a straight set match. I remember matches from years ago where she barely got into double figures, even in three setters, so this is really encouraging to see.

Wozniacki’s pick-up to Radwanska’s drop shot below got a racquet clap and was the shot of the day… a rare good choice in my opinion!

Lauren Davis won her 10th match of the year and and enjoyed a second top 30 win in a row with a 7-5 6-2 victory over Elena Vesnina. Davis was down 1-5 in the first set before mounting a sizeable comeback with six games in a row. She also joined Sam Stosur in the quarter-finals who scored an excellent win over Barbora Strycova, 6-3 3-6 6-4. It was nice to see Sam give her wristband to a kid at the end.

And to wrap up second round action, Karolina Pliskova beat Caroline Garcia, 7-5 6-4. This was a good win for Pliskova who had lost her last two matches to Garcia. Following on the scoreboard, it looked like a clutch performance from Pliskova who wasn’t broken once and won 92% of first serve points.

And so onto the quarter-finals… the only completed match at this stage saw Dominika Cibulkova score a huge win over Sam Stosur, 7-5 6-4. Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising based on the ranking but Cibulkova had never won a set off Stosur in five previous meetings between 2009 and 2014. This match-up had always been a tough one for Cibulkova with Stosur always using her kick serve to great effect.

Cibulkova though sealed the win in straight sets and won what became a tight first set after Cibulkova had led 5-1, needing three attempts at serving out the set. After having a bye in the first round, Cibulkova’s week has been mostly unaffected by the rain and she looks in the most promising position right now.

The next quarter-final featured Daria Kasatkina and Monica Puig – what I saw of it was really good. Kasatkina saved all eight break points she faced in the first set, eventually sealing the first set on a stunning point.

The pair were halted at 3-3 in the second set for rain. On the resumption, Kasatkina broke and was just two games away from the match. Puig though found a hot patch of form and some sweeet angles to level up. She produced a magnificent return game to break for the set, bullying Kasatkina with her power.

When the rain came yet again, Kasatkina was too defensive and playing way behind the baseline. I would put some of that down to tired legs and having to play two matches in one day. Puig though is one of those players that when she’s in form, it’s just beautiful to watch. Playing with that much firepower though comes with its challenges and Puig struggled to maintain a consistent level. Play was halted with Puig having held serve to 2-1 in the third set. While Puig definitely seemed to be in the ascendancy, that could all change tomorrow.

The final two quarter-finals will see Caroline Wozniacki take on Lauren Davis and Karolina Pliskova play Zhang Shuai. Friday will be another day where players have to play two matches with semi-finals starting at not before 4.30pm local time. I’m fed up with this week…

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I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to do much this week on the blog and I can’t update the site during the middle of the day as i’m at work. I’m feeling at a low ebb with tennis right now but things will at least pick up for the US Spring swing with tennis being at a better time to watch. Dubai’s time difference is less favourable than Doha but at least the forecast is looking set fair.

And talking of Dubai, there’s been quite a few withdrawals with the likes of Simona Halep, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Carla Suárez Navarro, Alizé Cornet, Eugenie Bouchard and Sara Errani all pulling out.

The qualifying draw for Dubai is already out and the main draw will be released on Saturday ahead of a Sunday start. Note that Reem Abulleil is the person to follow on Twitter for everything Dubai tennis related!

And finally, Naomi Osaka… she’s great.

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12 thoughts on “Thursday’s Set Points, WTA Doha: Kasatkina topples Kerber again, Cibulkova first into the semi-finals

  1. As regards Kerber vs Kasatkina: Social media and especially so-called “journalists” ( e.g. Carole Bouchard and others) have been awful today. All saying that it has been a catastrophic start to the year and that she wasn’t playing well today. Luckily, I was watching it and have my very own opinion on her “bad” start of the year. First of all, she was really sick today. She said to Beltz that she cannot breathe and her nose is blocked. she was coughing a lot during the match. Second, Dasha played really well…mixing it up a lot with tricky spinny moonballs and slice. Third, break point conversion was awful from Angie today. And now the most important point: despite being sick, she played a really really good match, some silver linings on the horizon (40 Winners / 21 UE). In the first set, she just couldn’t convert her break points and was heavily breathing. The second set was vintage Angie. Torben came down and told her: make the points short, go for everything, your body is not able to run today. Then, it was all about Angie, painting the line, using FH longline and her strong backhand and really giving Dasha nothing to work with. That’s why I’m pretty much convinced that the next time, these two meet, Angie will win it (as she was able to completely outplay Dasha). The third set, it seemed like all power had left her body and Dasha was playing smart tennis and made one or two right lucky decisions. Once she broke, Angie’s fighting spirit slowly but surely left the court. I mean, she couldn’t even be sarcastic today. If she had won she would probably have withdrawn from her match against Puig.
    Soooo…that’s my summary of today’s match. As you’ve read, nothing to freak out, nothing to write her off or her year. I’m pretty confident for Dubai tbh.

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    • Thanks for your analysis, Murphy. Really appreciate it. As you can tell from my lack of comments on the actual match, I wasn’t able to watch. While I was really concerned by her performance vs. Vandeweghe at the AO, I agree it’s far too early to be writing Kerber off for the year. I hope she has a more favourable draw and week in Dubai.

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      • Yeah I was guessing you didn’t watch. Was just angry about all that stupid comments. I mean it’s not even about Angie but about everyone else. They are really fast with judging these days. Writing people off. That’s annoying. I think you can only tell after 6 month of playing really bad tennis that someone is sluping. I mean I remember all those people writing Venus off. These are the same that are now saying: “I always knew she would go back to the top”.

        P.S, Angie’s start to 2015 wasn’t the best either but she went on to win 4 tournaments.

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      • Yes caught up with highlights but obviously not the same. I thought something seemed up with Kerber, there didn’t seem to be much energy from her side.Yes I understand and get frustrated too with how reactive people can be. I’m probably guilty of doing it also!

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      • True! Also, Dasha plays with a lot of spin whereas Angie’s game is more about flat fast strokes. Ir’s not the best match up for her.

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  2. Just quick word to Strycova. She was very loud as usually, she wasn’t happy her game, surface, herself in general. Talking little two much to herself, should have won this one, but nice to see Sam on slower surface to find her FH again and again. Hope she will be back in Prague on clay this year.

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