No.8 seed Veronika Kudermetova held off former Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) in a nail-biting first round at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open.
Kudermetova needed exactly three hours to win her second straight match against the Czech, whom she had defeated 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of Cincinnati last year. Overall, Kudermetova leads their pro head-to-head 2-1, as well as triumphing in both of their junior encounters back in 2013.
Throughout, Kudermetova's form was steadier. The World No.11 struck fewer winners, 27 to Krejcikova's 41, but kept her unforced error count down to 18 compared to her opponent's 25. Kudermetova was also rock-solid behind her first serve, winning 74% of those points.
putting the 𝙘𝙖𝙩 into #QatarTennis 😼 pic.twitter.com/ZJsfPnIq13— wta (@WTA) February 13, 2023
In the home stretch, Kudermetova also remained calm in the face of an attempted comeback. The 25-year-old missed a point to hold for 5-2, and Krejcikova would ultimately force a deciding tiebreak after finding some of her best forehands of the day. But once there, Kudermetova's groundstrokes proved less wayward, and she converted her second match point with a backhand one-two punch -- overruled as a winner after initially being called out.
Kudermetova has now won all four tiebreaks she has contested this year, and her last six dating back to Tokyo in September. She will next face either Abu Dhabi runner-up Liudmila Samsonova or wild card Sofia Kenin.
Quite the arrival 👋— wta (@WTA) February 13, 2023
Two-time #QatarTennis champion @vika7 gets past Oz 6-1, 6-1 to progress to the last 16 in Doha.
Awaits Bencic or Tomova next! pic.twitter.com/VqqU1dTTCA
Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka was also a first-round winner on Monday, defeating Turkish wildcard Ipek Oz 6-1, 6-1.
Oz was playing an opponent ranked inside the Top 20 for the first time in her career, and Azarenka came out on top in 67 minutes, demonstrating the form which earned her back-to-back Doha titles in 2012 and 2013. Azarenka is now 19-2 in Doha throughout her career.
World No.187 Oz, who has risen over 80 spots in the rankings in the last 12 months, came onto court draped in a Turkish flag, to show support for her country which was rocked by devastating earthquakes last week.
Azarenka had supportive words for Oz during her on-court interview, saying "I'm sure it's very hard for [Oz] to go out on the court and play right now, considering everything that's going, so I wish her strength. Hopefully, somehow, someway, things can get better."
Also on Monday, Karolina Muchova won her first-round main-draw match, advancing 6-2, 6-2 past Roland Garros semifinalist Martina Trevisan in just 79 minutes.
Two former champions also successfully navigated the qualifying rounds. 2017 titlist Karolina Pliskova defeated former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 7-5 and 2019 winner Elise Mertens battled past Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to return to the Doha main draw.