The top two seeds crashed out in quick succession on Thursday at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Jessica Pegula kicked-off the chain of upsets by ousting second seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-1 in just an hour. The American qualifier dominated Pliskova from start to finish, and although was broken in the opening game of the second set, won the final six games of the set on the trot to take her place in the semi-finals.
Pegula will take on another Czech, the fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova, for a spot in the final. Kvitova needed an hour and 54 minutes to claim a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach her third semi-final in the Qatari capital. The match was qualitatively interesting and not much separated the two players.
In her post-match press conference, Kvitova acknowledged as much. She said, “I'm really glad that after losing the second set, which I probably didn't play the best, I started very well in the third. I learned that the return was pretty good from my side.
I was going for it - first point, first shot - and I think that made a big difference. In the rally, it was 50/50 and anybody could win it, but when I put the pressure from my return, it was really very nice”.
Qatar Total Open: Victoria Azarenka's gritty win
In the top half, Victoria Azarenka ousted top-seed Elina Svitolina in their quarter-final clash.
Battling severe back problems that required her to have a medical time-out, Azarenka came through 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 27 minutes. Speaking about her efforts post-win, Azarenka said, “I really just tried to focus on what I could do, and not think about anything else, and try to find solutions and use every opportunity I had to play.
I just tried to play point by point and not think about the score, how long it’s going to take to play, if it’s going to be two sets or three sets. I’m really proud of the way I handled it mentally and how I approached this match”.
The Belarusian will face in-form Garbine Muguruza in an attempt to reach the Qatar Total Open final. The Spaniard posted a quick 6-3, 6-1 win over Maria Sakkari in merely 66 minutes. This is Muguruza’s second semi-final in Doha, with her first coming in 2018.