Doha | Tumbling seeds as Swiatek sweeps into Last 8

Seeds tumbled on Thursday as Iga Swiatek, the World No 1, advanced to the quarter-finals at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, keeping her title defence hopes alive with a straight sets win over Ekaterina Alexandrova, while Naomi Osaka also made the Last 8 after her opponent, Leisa Tsurenko pulled out ahead of their match with an elbow injury.

She's improved a lot [Emma Navarro] and it was such a difficult match. I had some opportunities in the second set, but she played really well. For me, physically, it was a little bit more difficult but I'm really happy that I managed to win in the end.  Elena Rybakina

Zheng Qinwen, Marketa Vondrousova, Jelena Ostapenko and Emma Navarro, though, all fell, and leaving Elena Rybakina as the last seed left standing in the lower half of the draw.

Swiatek, the top seed, saw off a second set threat by Alexandrova, seeded 14, beating the Russian, 6-1 6-4, in an hour and 31 minutes, and extending her impressive run in Doha to 10 straight matches.

The 22-year Pole also takes her record here to 11-1, with her lone loss at the tournament coming to Svetlana Kuznetsova from Russia in the 2020 2nd-round, while she has not dropped a set at the event since her 2022 1st-round match against Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic.

She needed, however, to save 3 separate groups of break points against Alexandrova, who had patches of exceptionally big hitting.

She staved off 2 in the opening game, then 4 more in the first game of the second set, but the trickiest game was the last one of the match, in which Swiatek saw 4 match points disappear, with a break point for Alexandrova on either side of the quartet.

The Russian came up with stellar returns to erase the first 4, as she tried to pull the second set back on track, but Swiatek came through on her 5th match point and successfully finished the match 8-for-8 on break points saved.

Former two-time Doha champion Victoria Azarenka maintained her dominance over Jelena Ostapenko, upsetting the 8th seed in straight sets on Day 4 of the WTA 1000 event

© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

The 4-time Grand Slam champion will now face two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in Thursday’s quarter-final, who extended her undefeated dominance over Jelena Ostapenko to 5-0 with a 6-0 6-3 win late on Wednesday night.

Azarenka, the Doha champion in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013, cruised past the 8th-seeded Latvian in 1 hour and 28 minutes in the nightcap match.

The Belarusian maintained the upper hand throughout, saving all 5 break points she faced in the encounter, and finished with 6 fewer winners than Ostapenko, who was undone by her unforced errors, with 49 to just 20 from Azarenka.

34-year-old Azarenka is now into her 36th career WTA 1000 quarter-final, but she goes into the encounter with Swiatek with the Pole leading 2-1 in the head-to-head record, while the defending champion also has won their two most recent matches.

Karolina Pliskova, last week's champion in Romania, got through her 3rd 3-setter, defeating Linda Noskova to set up a Last 8 meeting with Naomi Osaka on Thursday

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former World No 1 Naomi Osaka moved into the Last 8 when her Round of 16 opponent Lesia Tsurenko, the World No 37 from Ukraine, withdrew ahead of their match due to an elbow injury, and the Japanese will take on Karolina Pliskova next.

Osaka, who was on maternity leave for the end of 2022 and all of 2023, is into her first Hologic WTA Tour quarter-final since she reached the Miami Open final in March of 2022.

Currently ranked No 747, Osaka is the second-lowest-ranked woman to reach a WTA 1000 quarter-final, behind Sloane Stephens, who was ranked 934 when she made the 2017 Toronto semi-finals, and still holds the record.

Since returning to the tour in the first week of 2024, Osaka’s win-loss record is up to 3-3 for the season, with Wednesday’s walkover not counting as a win for the Japanese or a loss for Tsurenko.

In the quarters, Osaka will face Karolina Pliskova, who defeated her fellow Czech Linda Noskova, 3-6 7-5 6-1, after trailing her younger compatriot 6-3, 5-4 when Noskova served for the match, but she turned the contest around by winning 9 of the last 10 games.

Pliskova, last week’s champion in Cluj-Napoca, has now won 8 matches in the last 9 days, and must be playing on fumes, but she is looking to beat Osaka for the second time this year after ending the Japanese’s first tournament outing on her return to the WTA Tour in Brisbane.

Leylah Fernandez upset 5th-seeded Zheng Qinwen and will meet Elena Rybakina in the quarters

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In the lower half of the draw, Leylah Fernandez has found a rich vein of form and reached the quarters by scoring her second win in as many meetings with Zheng Qinwen, the 5th seed, upsetting the Chinese, 7-5 6-3, in 1 hour and 32 minutes.

Fernandez came from 3-5 down in the first set to win the skirmish between the two 21-year-old Grand Slam finalists.

The result was Fernandez’s 6th career Top 10 win, and 2nd in the past 4 months, following her defeat of Vondrousova in last November’s Billie Jean King Cup semi-finals.

Fernandez, who was ranked as low as 95 in July but is up at 38 this week, continues a resurgence over the past few months that also saw her pick up a 3rd career title in Hong Kong last October.

Zheng’s superior weight of shot gave the Australian Open finalist the upper hand through most of the first set,  as Fernandez’s net-rushing strategy was not paying dividends in the face of the Chinese’s heavy forehand, who broke the 2021 US Open finalist from 40-0 down to lead 4-3.

The 5th seed, though, was unable to serve out the set after Fernandez got lucky with a dead net-cord return on break point, but it was the following game that saw the Canadian take control.

Zheng started it with her best shot of the match, a cross-court backhand pass, only for Fernandez to respond with a drop-volley, and down-the-line shots off both wings plus a drop-shot, all winners, to take the lead for the first time.

The Chinese, who tallied 29 unforced errors to 18 winners, conceded her serve again in the following game, and Fernandez was in control throughout the second, finding 18 winners to her 15 unforced errors, and repeatedly outfoxing Zheng with her neat drop-shots.

Elena Rybakina (R), the World No 4, dropped her first set of the week to Emma Navarro, the 16th seed, on Wednesday

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Fernandez advances to her 4th quarter-final at WTA 1000 level or above, and will next face 3rd-seeded Elena Rybakina after the Kazakh eventually saw off American Emma Navarro, the 16th seed, 6-1 6-7(6) 6-4.

Rybakina saw an hour pass between her 1st and 2nd match points before eventually coming through after 2 hours and 9 minutes on court.

The 3rd seed had little trouble early on, picking up her third straight 6-1 set against the World No 23, and looked to be on course to wrap up the match in two after rallying from 1-3 down in the second, but the American pushed her into a tiebreak.

Leading 4-0, the Kazakh willed herself to match point after dropping 5 straight points in the breaker, but was then pegged back and edged out by Navarro, who was determined to extend the encounter.

Scoring a decisive service break at 2-2 in the decider, Rybakina saved 2 break points in the final game and needed all of her firepower to move through to the quarter-finals in Doha for the first time, nearly tripling Navarro’s total of winners, 55 to 20, in a match in which she fired 10 aces.

“She’s improved a lot and it was such a difficult match,” Rybakina admitted afterwards. “I had some opportunities in the second set, but she played really well.

“For me, physically, it was a little bit more difficult but I’m really happy that I managed to win in the end.”

At the foot of the draw, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Danielle Collins set an all-unseeded quarter-final with defeats of higher-ranked opponents on Wednesday, the Russian upsetting No 6 seed Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic, 7-5 6-3, to notch her first Top 10 win since beating Aryna Sabalenka at Roland Garros in 2021, while the American dispatched another Czech, Katerina Siniakova, 6-4 6-3.

Ranked 32, Pavlyuchenkova had lost both of her previous meetings with Vondrousova in straight sets in 2021, but, after falling behind 3-1 in the first set, the 32-year-old found her groove with her powerful game, thumping groundstrokes from side to side as the Wimbledon champion lapsed into passivity.

Collins, the 2022 Australian Open finalist, struggled at the outset of 2024, losing 3 of 5 matches, and was forced to qualify in Abu Dhabi, then beat Osaka and pushed Rybakina to 3 sets.

After winning 2 more qualifying matches in Doha, she upset No 13 seed Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, then beat two Czechs in a row, Marie Bouzkova and Katerina Siniakova, who had upset No 2 seed Coco Gauff.

“Just proud of my effort to come out here and play so many matches back to back and maintain a high level,” said the No 63-ranked Collins. “Maintaining a high level of physicality but also tactically sticking to what’s working.”

Next up is Pavlyuchenkova, whom she has beaten all 3 times they have played.



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