No.4 seed Petra Kvitova came through a stellar hard-hitting clash 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 over Anett Kontaveit to reach her third Qatar Total Open semifinal in one hour and 46 minutes. In the last four, the 2018 champion will face qualifier Jessica Pegula, who needed just 57 minutes to upset No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-1.
Both players have been in top form this week, reaching the quarterfinals without dropping more than five games in any match, and were able to bring that level against each other. Blistering power was the order of the day, with most rallies a question of who was going to get the hardest, deepest strike in first. But there was accuracy as well - Kvitova and Kontaveit both finished with positive ratios of winners to unforced errors.
Indeed, Kontaveit could boast a positive ratio in each set: 11 to seven in the first, nine to seven in the second and seven to four in the third. But overall, it was Kvitova who landed the most lethal blows at the right times, tallying 31 winners to 24 unforced errors.
The Czech raced out of the blocks, taking a 5-1 lead in just 19 minutes after a brilliant purple patch of play. Kontaveit never backed down from her own commitment to taking the ball on, and managed to get her teeth into the tail end of the set - too late to save it, but useful in terms of flipping the dynamic to dominate the second set.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, a winner here in 2018 and runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka last year, displayed real grit to seize hold of the deciding set. The former World No.2 excelled on both defence and return to come through three deuces before breaking Kontaveit in the first game, and backed it up with ferocious forehands to move up a double break at 3-0.
"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," said Kvitova afterwards. "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."
That proved a sufficient lead to see Kvitova over the finishing line, despite Kontaveit's valiant attempts to cling on, and the result improves her head-to-head over the Estonian to 5-2. Next up will be Pegula, who scored her second Top 10 win in a row over Pliskova to advance to her fourth WTA semifinal, and first at 500 level.
Pegula, a quarterfinalist at the Western & Southern Open last year and the Australian Open a month ago, now owns a 20-7 record since the Tour resumption. Striking 20 winners to just seven unforced errors, the 27-year-old showcased a fine all-court game to take down 2017 champion Pliskova.
Pegula took control of the match immediately, aiming her returns deep and at Pliskova's feet. The Czech, who had battled past midnight the previous day to edge Ons Jabeur in three sets, lacked sharp movement and intensity, and Pegula took full advantage.
The American World No.44 has dropped just one set this week, against Anastasia Potapova in a 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) qualifying marathon of her own, and rarely looked like doing so again today. Finishing points in the forecourt efficiently, Pegula saved the only break point she faced in the first set and sealed her second set point with another baseline return.
Pliskova briefly rejuvenated her tennis to break Pegula at the start of the second set, but it was short-lived. The former World No.1 would never reach another game point as Pegula reeled off a 'hidden bagel' - the last six games of the match in a row, conceding only six more points.