The first round match in Doha saw 34th ranked Shuai Zhang take on 36th ranked Ekaterina Makarova. It was a tight contest in the first set but the Russian powered through, in the end, to set up a second round clash with second seed Simona Halep.
Zhang starts bright but Makarova edges the set
The Chinese started the set the better of the two having an easier time on her serves. She carved out her first break point on the Makarova serve in the fourth with some crisp hitting and finishing off at the net. She lost the chance splaying a forehand wide but maintained the pressure on the Russian. A poor volley though allowed Makarova to hang on to her serve to draw level at 2-2. The Russian, on the other hand, was not able to make much of a headway on the Chinese's serve in the early stages.
An error-filled sixth game from the Russian gave Zhang yet another opportunity to break first. And the Chinese took it with some patient play dragging Makarova out wide before finishing with a forehand winner into the open court. The Russian though fought right back creating a chance of her own finding the corner with a sweet shot for her first break point of the match. She fired long in the ensuing rally but conjured up another break point forcing Zhang wide. The Russian stepped up her aggression and broke back to get back on serve at 3-4.
A couple of easy holds then followed. In the ninth game, Zhang who looked set to get a comfortable hold somehow let slip her game points. Sensing her chance, Makarova upped her game forcing errors from the Chinese and eventually got the crucial break for 5-4. Makarova looked to be feeling the pressure missing an easy smash before sending her shot into the net handing Zhang the chance to break right back. The Chinese did ever so brilliantly with a stunning pass to level for 5-5.
However, that didn't last long as the Russian got the better of the Chinese and took the lead once more for 6-5. And this time, she made no mistake closing it out with ease grabbing the first set 7-5.
Makarova cruises as Zhang misfires
The Russian started off where she left hammering winners and benefitting from Zhang's errors to immediately break in the second set. Makarova kept up her level while Zhang looked to be fading away. Cheap errors and pressure from the Russian caused the Chinese to lose serve once more.
Makarova was firmly in the driving seat and consolidated the double break for a 4-0 lead. The Zhang who started the match brightly was long gone now and misery continued to pile for her with the Russian keeping relentless. A huge return down the line from Makarova brought up a staggering 5-0 lead. There was no stopping the Russian and she went on to complete the second set bagel sealing a 7-5, 6-0 victory.