Main draw action at the 2020 Qatar Total Open began on Sunday with 12 first round matches on the schedule. Sunday starts to a tournament are an absolute delight! It makes such a difference to watch tennis live so I enjoyed a tennis binge day. Only two seeds were in action on Sunday and both advanced to the second round. Read on for my highlights from day 1 in Doha.
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1. Muguruza and Kasatkina serve up the match of the day
Garbiñe Muguruza and Daria Kasatkina added another classic to the vault with their fourth consecutive three set match. It’s a compelling rivalry and the pair’s differing games just seem to gel together nicely. Muguruza took the lead in their head-to-head, beating Kasatkina, 7-5 5-7 6-3 in two hours and 49 minutes. Muguruza led 7-5 5-2, then lost five straight games and the second set, before prevailing in three sets.
I thought this was one of Kasatkina’s best matches in the last year or so. In the second set, she maintained a high percentage of first serves in and gave away very few free points (i’ve watched a lot of Dasha matches to know this was noteworthy). I felt Kasatkina kind of earnt her five game streak with Muguruza releasing a torrent of groundstrokes long. Kasatkina did a good job at putting the ball in uncomfortable positions, particularly at the net with lots of awkward high balls for Muguruza to contend with.
Despite the spirited effort from Kasatkina, I never felt like she was winning this. Eight out of 30 break points converted was not ideal. Kasatkina also got a case of the serving yips in the decider. While she managed to shore up the serve, it was ultimately the difference in the decider as Muguruza was able to secure two valuable holds of serve. Muguruza’s decision making coming forward was questionable at times but it was a resilient performance to put the second set disappointment behind her. I’m really liking the commitment from Muguruza so far this year.
2. Defending champ opens with an emphatic win
Elise Mertens began her title defence in Doha with an emphatic victory over Wang Qiang, 6-1 6-2. The first set was closer than the scoreline suggested as Wang Qiang had break point opportunities in two of Mertens’s service games. From 4-1 in the first set, Mertens became increasingly dominant behind the first serve and used the gusty conditions to her advantage by slicing to draw Wang Qiang into the net. Wang Qiang’s error count snowballed towards the end of the match.
Mertens will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Yulia Putintseva in the second round. This is a wide open section of the draw and it is clear from last year’s title win that Mertens likes the courts and conditions in Doha.
3. Muchova’s best win of 2020
I was keen to watch Karolina Muchova in Doha after a slow start to the year and having recently announced on Instagram that she had split with her coach. I was pleasantly surprised as Muchova eased past Magda Linette, 6-3 6-1, for her best win of 2020. Muchova grew in confidence as the match wore on as she produced some fantastic forehands and was able to rely on her serve, even for some serve & volley.
It’s worth noting that Linette, a recent champion in Hua Hin, had an off day and offered up little resistance in the second set, going out in a blaze of unforced errors. Still, it was Muchova’s most convincing display of the year and I enjoyed watching her game in full flow again. Next up is Kiki Bertens in the second round which should be a fun one.
4. Ons magic
Ons Jabeur snapped a long-standing losing streak to Katerina Siniakova with a first ever win over the Czech player in six meetings. Jabeur won, 6-3 6-2, in 70 minutes. Jabeur played really well with an array of hot shots. It’s such a treat to get to watch Jabeur on the main stage and she is clearly thriving with confidence right now. Since reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Jabeur has beaten Alison Riske and Siniakova which are both solid wins. Jabeur could face Riske again in the second round of Doha.
Random note – I switched over to this match towards the end of the first set and Siniakova was on the floor. Classic Kat! Not a great day for Siniakova but she seems to have at least turned a corner by successfully coming through qualifying both Dubai and Doha.
5. Best of the rest
Yaroslava Shvedova played her first singles match since the 2017 French Open! Laura Siegemund beat Shvedova, 6-3 6-2.
Amanda Anismova snapped a three match losing streak with an excellent win over the in-form, Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-3 7-6(4). There was some quality shotmaking towards the end of the second set.
Bernarda Pera eased past Caroline Garcia for the loss of just four games, 6-3 6-1. Most sad about this result is that it wasn’t a surprise at all.
Veronika Kudermetova won a topsy-turvy clash with Kristina Mladenovic, 7-6(6) 0-6 6-3. Kudermetova was 1-5 down in the first set before mounting an impressive comeback!
In the final match of the day, Jelena Ostapenko beat Jill Teichmann, 7-5 2-6 7-5. All the credit to Teichmann who played a great match as she ran down everything and was exemplary in her attitude on court. This was a really fun encounter!
Super stat 🔢
Mertens has now beaten Wang Qiang twice in a week and both times for the loss of just three games! The nature of the wins is surprising considering their four prior matches were all decided in three sets. Their matches at Indian Wells (Wang Qiang won, 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 6-3) and Wimbledon (Mertens won, 6-2 6-7(9) 6-4) last year were both epics and close to the three hour mark. This time round, Mertens won handily…
17th February in Dubai: Mertens d. Wang Qiang, 6-3 6-0 (62 minutes)
23rd February in Doha: Mertens d. Wang Qiang, 6-1 6-2 (65 minutes)
Hot shot 🔥
So many hot shots from Ons in this match!
Recommended media 📺
Loved these hand skills from Dasha to pick up her racquet again. She actually won the point!
Recommended listening 🎧
Really enjoying the content on the No Challenges Remaining podcast this year. Their latest, an interview with Maria Sakkari’s coach, Tom Hill, was probably my favourite of the year so far. There are some very interesting insights into his journey into tennis including working with Danielle Collins and now Sakkari.
A shout-out to the Dubai final which was one of my favourite matches of the year so far. For the third time in the week, Simona Halep came from a set down to triumph over Elena Rybakina in a third set tiebreak, 3-6 6-3 7-6(5). It was a classic never-say-die Halep performance as she battled valiantly to fend off a red-hot, Rybakina.
Rybakina’s rise has been rapid! She hits a clean and heavy ball but I wouldn’t say she’s a ball basher. In this final, she was pretty consistent for the most part with her groundstrokes and kept a consistent depth. She seems smart on court and I like how from time-to-time she throws in some loopier balls and is not afraid to come forward to the net. Rybakina was not on my radar at the start of the year – safet to say she is now!