The quarterfinals of singles at the Qatar Total Open were played on Thursday with three favorites winning and one upset as fourth seed Belinda Bencic lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova. In doubles, another big upset occurred in the bottom half of the draw.
Kuznetsova, Sabalenka set up semifinal clash
Kuznetsova scored another big win, ousting Bencic 6-4, 6-4 to reach her first semifinal in Doha in 13 years. The Russian tied the tournament record for match wins with 19, held by the recently retired Caroline Wozniacki. The victory also marked the first time in five career meetings against the Swiss, with her only win coming via retirement in 2016.
Kuznetsova's opponent in the semifinals will be ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka, who came from a set down to defeat Saisai Zheng 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3. The Belarusian avenged a loss to the Chinese from San Jose last year and advanced to her second semifinal of the season, following a last four appearance in Adelaide.
Barty, Kvitova to renew rivalry in second semifinal
Top seed Ashleigh Barty is into the semifinals after a hard-working 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 win over 11th seed Garbine Muguruza. The Aussie was impeccable in a dominant opening set, not facing a break point, but Muguruza turned the tide in the second, twice breaking and after Barty forced a tiebreaker, jumping out to a 5-0 lead, running away with it.
The third set saw more of what occurred in the first set as Barty saved a break point in the first game of the final set and cruised from there, a final forehand wide from the Spaniard sealing the world number one's place in the last four.
Eighth seed Petra Kvitova needed two tiebreaks to fend off the challenge of Ons Jabeur, coming out on top 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4). The Czech jumped out to a 4-1 double break lead only to see the Tunisian rattle off four games in a row as a tiebreak commenced. Level at 2-2, the 2018 Doha champion took the next five points to claim the lead.
Jabeur started strongly in the second set, holding a 3-1 edge and was twice up a break only to see Kvitova storm back and eventually force a second successive breaker. This time, she got out quickly, a 5-1 advantage soon turning into victory and propelling her to a meeting with Barty.
Both women are looking forward to what is sure to be another close contest. "I love playing Petra, I really do", Barty said. "I feel like she has this way of bringing out the best in me, and no matter the result both of us have a smile on our face and that's what I love about the contest with Petra is we respect each other, we play well and we just fight and we just see whoever's better on the day will get the win and i'm expecting tomorrow to be no different."
"It's nice to play her", stated Kvitova. "She mixes it up a lot. Definitely, it's nice to share the court with her. We know each other very well and in the past had so many matches."
Hsieh/Strycova to take on Dabrowski/Ostapenko for doubles title
In doubles semifinals action, top seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova survived a thriller against fourth seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 4-6, [12-10] as they look to complete the Middle East sweep, having triumphed in Doha. Their opponents in the final will be sixth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko, who continued their upset ways. After upsetting Elise Mertens and Sabalenka in the quarterfinals, they stunned second seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 1-6, [10-7].