Two-time major champions Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza will meet in the 2021 Qatar Total Open final, in a rematch of this event's 2018 championship.
The No.4 seed Kvitova beat qualifier Jessica Pegula, 6-4, 6-4, to make her third appearance in the Doha final in the past four years. Kvitova defeated Muguruza in the 2018 final and was runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka at the event last season.
Muguruza advanced to the final without striking a ball. No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka withdrew from their semifinal clash with a back injury.
Under the lights in Doha, Kvitova needed 78 minutes to move into the final. It was Kvitova’s second win over Pegula in as many meetings, following the Czech’s straight-set win in the third round of last season’s US Open.
"I would love to know it, as well, why I'm playing well in Doha," Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. "I would love to play everywhere very well, but of course sometimes it's not easy."
Kvitova’s had 26 winners on the day, equaling her unforced error count. It was enough to garner her six breaks of the Pegula serve.
"Today was so windy, and I'm not sure if it was a matter of tennis, but it was really about putting lot of balls into the court," Kvitova said. "But then Jessica played really great, and I really have to play great, as well."
Pegula, the first qualifier to ever reach the semifinals in the tournament’s history, saw her run come to an end after her 28 unforced errors outpaced her 17 winners.
Kvitova held break leads of 2-1 and 4-3 in the first set, but each of those times, Pegula’s piercing groundstrokes were able to force errors from the hard-hitting Czech and pull her back on serve. However, Kvitova broke again to lead 5-4 with deep and powerful returns, and she was finally able to consolidate a break in the next game, easing to a one-set lead.
It was Pegula who picked up early leads in the second set, moving ahead by 3-0 and 4-2 before Kvitova steered the set back in her favor. A thunderous game, starting with a forehand winner and ending with an ace, brought Kvitova back to level footing at 4-4, and she used more big hitting to keep up her momentum, ultimately winning the final four games of the match.
Kvitova will now aim for her 28th career WTA singles title, and her first since she triumphed in Stuttgart nearly two years ago.
"First of all, just being in the final for me, it's great," Kvitova said. "We played many times already against Garbiñe. We played a final here 2018, as well, which was roller-coaster. I know she's really in great form. She's playing really well.
"We play a similar game. So it will be really, I think, about a few points, as it was in the past."
Azarenka, a two-time champion in Doha in 2012 and 2013 as well as runner-up to Lucie Safarova in 2015, sustained her injury during her quarterfinal win over No.1 seed Elina Svitolina.
"Unfortunately, the pain in my back that I experienced during yesterday's match has not gone away enough in order for me to be able to compete tonight," Azarenka said in a press release. "I have loved being back here in Doha this week, and want to thank the tournament and everyone involved with the organization of this great event for hosting us and making it possible to play during these challenging times.
"I am very appreciative of being awarded a wildcard to compete here this week, and I am looking forward to being back in Doha again next year. Lastly, wishing all the remaining players in the draw the best of luck for the remainder of the tournament."
We are saddened to inform that due to the back injury Victoria Azarenka is pulling-out from Qatar Total Open 2021 🩹 Effectively, Garbine Muguruza is qualified for the place in QTO 2021 FINAL! 🎾 #qatartennis #wta #qto2021 @vichka35 @garbimuguruza pic.twitter.com/VR4L2cDqkZ— Qatar Tennis Federation (@QatarTennis) March 5, 2021
As a result, the unseeded Muguruza moves into her 14th career final and second of 2021 so far. The Spaniard was runner-up to Ashleigh Barty at the Yarra Valley Classic a month ago and will be seeking her first title since Monterrey 2019, and first at 500/Premier level or above since Cincinnati 2017.
"Just wishing [Azarenka] to recover," Muguruza said. "I saw yesterday that she might be struggling."
Muguruza, previously runner-up to Kvitova in Doha in 2018, now has a chance to avenge that loss in this year's final.
"I think it's going to be a tough match," Muguruza said, looking forward to her upcoming tilt with Kvitova. "We played here in another final three years ago, so just looking forward to playing that match and hopefully getting the trophy."
In Friday's doubles final, No.2 seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs beat Monica Niculescu and Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 2-6, [10-8].
The match went down to the wire before Melichar and Schuurs eked out the match tiebreak following an hour and a quarter of play.
It was the second title for the tandem. They paired to win on the clay courts of Strasbourg last autumn. It is Melichar's ninth WTA doubles title overall, while Schuurs is now up to 13 in her career.
Melichar and Schuurs were not broken in the opening frame as they swept to a one-set lead, but Niculescu and Ostapenko powered through the final four games of the second set to level the match and set up the decisive match tiebreak.
There, Melichar and Schuurs swept to quadruple championship point at 9-5, but two winners and an unreturned Ostapenko serve let the unseeded pair fend off the first three. At last, the No.2 seeds converted their fourth chance after a netted service return by Ostapenko.