No.3 seed Paula Badosa snuffed out the threat of rising teenager Clara Tauson 6-1, 6-2 in just 69 minutes to reach the third round of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open. Meanwhile, a battle of former champions saw 2019 winner Elise Mertens advance as defending champion Petra Kvitova retired trailing 7-5, 1-2 due to a left wrist injury.
Badosa's clash with Tauson had been one of Day 3's picks on paper. Their only prior encounter had been almost exactly 12 months ago in Lyon - Tauson's second WTA-level main draw and a breakout tournament for the Dane, who won the whole thing as a qualifier via a 7-5, 6-1 defeat of Badosa in the semifinals.
Neither player was ranked in the Top 70 at the time, but the past year has seen both surge up the rankings to arrive at career highs this week. World No.33 Tauson has already claimed wins over Anett Kontaveit and Belinda Bencic this year, while Badosa has rocketed to World No.4 after capturing titles in Belgrade, Indian Wells and Sydney.
Badosa's form had dipped in the Middle East after the Spaniard suffered a first-round defeat last week in Dubai to Elena-Gabriela Ruse, while Tauson was bidding to pull off a second consecutive upset after beating Bencic in the first round. But in the event, Badosa asserted her authority with an emphatic performance.
Quick day at the office for the No.3 seed, @paulabadosa 💼— wta (@WTA) February 22, 2022
She takes out Tauson 6-1, 6-2.#QatarTennis pic.twitter.com/Q41VwX29Qn
Keys to the match: Badosa played a tactically astute match, bolstered by impregnable first serve numbers. The 24-year-old fired nine aces and dropped only three points behind her first delivery.
In rallies, she targeted Tauson's movement to keep her opponent off balance. Particularly effective was Badosa's pattern of repeatedly dragging Tauson out wide with thumping crosscourt backhands, a tactic that invariably forced the teenager to resort to harmless or errant slices.
In total, Badosa tallied 20 winners to 17 unforced errors; Tauson, who was more bothered by the gusty conditions, committed 25 unforced errors to 14 winners. The 19-year-old was also unable to take the few chances that came her way. A dead net cord gave her a rare opening on the Badosa serve down 4-0 in the first set, and she received a similar opportunity after Badosa double faulted while serving out the match.
But Badosa demonstrated greater focus to save all four break points she faced, and sealed her first match point in apt fashion: a heavy crosscourt backhand that drew another netted Tauson slice.
Krejcikova sails past Linette
Like Badosa, No.2 seed Barbora Krejcikova put an early Dubai defeat behind her with a quick Doha opener. The Czech had lost to Dayana Yastremska in the second round last week, but bounced back with a 6-1, 6-3 rout of Magda Linette in 1 hour and 11 minutes.
The Czech dropped just 12 points on serve and saved both break points she faced, in the third game of the second set, while Linette was undone by 33 unforced errors to only eight winners.
Highlights: Krejcikova d. Linette
No.67-ranked Linette, who had come from a set and a break down in the first round to claim her first win over Alison Riske in six meetings, could not pull off a similar escape. Though the Pole fended off two match points serving at 3-5 in the second set, the relentless reliability of the Krejcikova one-two punch proved too much in the next game.
The match was Krejcikova's main-draw debut in Doha, having lost in qualifying to Stefanie Voegele in 2016, Duan Yingying in 2018 and Cristina Bucsa in 2021.
Mertens advances as Kvitova retires
No.16 seed Mertens' clash with Kvitova pitted the 2019 champion against the 2018 and 2021 winner, and there was little to separate the pair in a narrowly-contested first set. There were seven breaks of serve in total, and momentum swung between both as their form oscillated in the wind.
Mertens, deploying extreme forehand slice to superb effect to further disrupt Kvitova's rhythm, was unable to serve out the set at 5-4 after committing consecutive double faults, but made no mistake with her second opportunity.
Kvitova had held for 2-1 in the second set when the Czech called for the trainer and opted to retire. Mertens will next face No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit, against whom she holds a 3-1 head-to-head lead, including their last three matches dating back to 2018.
Lucky loser Jaqueline Cristian was also forced to retire due to an unfortunate injury. The Romanian was leading Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 2-2 when she twisted her right knee leaping for a smash. Cristian received treatment and resumed play for one point, appearing able to walk comfortably. However, attempting to run caused her to yelp in pain again, and she was wheelchaired off court.