Tereza Martincova battled through windy conditions and a dogged opponent in the first round of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open to upset No.10 seed Elina Svitolina 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-6(5) in 2 hours and 59 minutes.
The result was a reversal of the pair's only previous encounter, which Svitolina won in straight sets in the second round of Indian Wells last year, and the fourth-longest match of the 2022 season so far. Martincova, 27, claimed her fourth career Top 20 win, three of which have come in the past 12 months.
Svitolina, whose best result in Doha was a sole semifinal run in 2019, falls to 5-8 overall in the Qatari capital. The Ukrainian's season record is now 3-5, and she has not defeated a Top 100 player since Sorana Cirstea at Indian Wells 2021.
A Martincova MARATHON 🏃♀️— wta (@WTA) February 21, 2022
🇨🇿 Tereza Martincova comes from a set down to outlast Svitolina in a grueling 2h59m!#QatarTennis pic.twitter.com/DA5r55D9b7
Match management: With gusty conditions playing havoc with both players' games, the clash was gruelling and unpredictable throughout its duration. There were 19 breaks of serve in total, and little in the way of momentum at any point.
In the first set, Svitolina seemed to fare better adapting to the wind, striking a better balance between playing conservatively and using the weather to her advantage. A frustrated Martincova struggled to control her groundstrokes, while judicious net approaches paid off for Svitolina.
But the former World No.3 faltered twice when in came to serving out the set - and though she dominated the ensuing tiebreak anyway, that vulnerability would foreshadow what was to come.
In the second set, it was an improved Martincova's turn to repeatedly take and lose the lead. Despite being pegged back twice by Svitolina, who found her best tennis when behind in this set, Martincova held firm. Eventually, the World No.42 won 13 of the last 16 points of the set from 5-4 down thanks to some timely big serves and Svitolina's forehand going awry.
Wind blowing 🌬 ➡️ Mind-blowing 😮@ElinaSvitolina | #QatarTennis pic.twitter.com/t7Wz0UsKAA— wta (@WTA) February 21, 2022
Svitolina seemed to have righted the ship in the decider, coming up with a flurry of winners to break Martincova for 2-2 and then advancing to 4-2 courtesy of a Czech double fault. But once again, she became both tentative and error-prone when it came to closing it out. Serving for the match at 5-3, Svitolina alternated between gutsy forehand winners and nervy errors from the same wing. Eventually, Martincova made her pay for the latter, finding a superb pass to break back and then sealing a knife-edge tiebreak by hammering an off forehand winner of her own.
Martincova will next face either Veronika Kudermetova, fresh off last week's Dubai final, or lucky loser Arantxa Rus.
🇺🇸 @CocoGauff with a swift victory over compatriot Rogers!— wta (@WTA) February 21, 2022
Sets up a second-round clash against Garcia at #QatarTennis 🤜🤛 pic.twitter.com/hfiPEKW7jt
Teichmann upsets Kerber again, former champion Mertens escapes Paolini, Gauff snaps losing streak
Last autumn, Jil Teichmann claimed the seventh Top 20 win of her career over No.13 seed Angelique Kerber in the Ostrava first round. The Swiss player reprised that result 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours and 8 minutes in her Doha opener for her ninth victory over opponents in that echelon.
Kerber, the 2014 runner-up, was playing just her second match of the season after a positive Covid-19 test disrupted her Australian swing. The German showed flashes of her best form, particularly in a solid first set and in fending off four set points in a thrilling hold for 5-3 in the second set.
However, Teichmann rebounded after a flat opening set in which she tallied 17 unforced errors to nine winners to show real fortitude throughout the rest of the match. It was narrowly contested and full of potential momentum shifts, featuring nine breaks of serve across the second and third sets, but the No.41-ranked Teichmann was equal to all the scoreboard fluctuations.
Highlights: Teichmann d. Kerber | Mertens d. Paolini | Kasatkina d. Tomljanovic | Gauff d. Rogers | Linette d. Riske
Showing off her swashbuckling left-handed forehand and tremendous reflexes at net, Teichmann tallied 26 winners to 23 unforced errors over the last two sets. She weathered the sequences of breaks with aplomb, and even when Kerber was threatening a comeback, Teichmann managed to keep a lid on it.
As the third set progressed, Kerber's level dropped, with her unforced error tally mounting to 48 compared to 18 winners, and Teichmann sealed victory with an ace.
Elise Mertens, the 2019 Doha champion, survived a scare against No.44-ranked Jasmine Paolini to progress 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in 2 hours and 4 minutes. The Belgian had fallen to Paolini in Indian Wells last autumn and trailed by a 4-1 double break in the third set, but recovered to win six of the last seven games.
Paolini, who had managed to consistently hit through Mertens with her heavy forehand for a set-and-a-half, was twice two points from victory when she served at 5-4 in the decider. But once Mertens had broken back, the Italian faded, and Mertens raced through the last 10 points of the match to set up a second-round clash with defending Doha champion, Petra Kvitova.
No.14 seed Coco Gauff also advanced, snapping a three-match losing streak with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of fellow American Shelby Rogers. Gauff, 17, fired eight aces and tallied 22 winners in total, with her net play particularly impressive.