Anhelina Kalinina came through two contrasting sets to defeat wild card Emma Raducanu in the first round of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, winning 6-0, 7-6(6) in 1 hour and 39 minutes.
The Ukrainian rattled through the first seven games for the loss of just 12 points, but had to save one set point in the second-set tiebreak before converting her third match point. She is the third player from her country to advance to the second round in Doha, following victories for Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko on Sunday.
The result was Kalinina's second win in as many meetings with Raducanu, having also defeated the Briton 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 in the third round of Madrid 2022. She advances to a second-round tie with No.8 seed Jelena Ostapenko, a two-time titlist already this season; Ostapenko has won all three of their pro meetings.
Rome finalist Kalinina had a slow start to 2024, failing to win a set in three matches in Australia. But she got off the mark last week in Abu Dhabi, defeating Lucia Bronzetti to reach the second round, and has now notched her first career win in Doha.
For Raducanu, it was her first opening-round loss since returning from an eight-month injury hiatus last month. The 2021 US Open champion's record this year is now 2-3.
Elsewhere, No.9 seed Barbora Krejcikova withdrew from the tournament due to a back injury ahead of her first-round tie with Anastasia Potapova. The Czech was replaced by lucky loser Martina Trevisan.
How the match was won: Kalinina delivered an immaculate first-set performance, out-manoeuvring Raducanu with changes of spin and pace on her forehand while committing just two unforced errors to 15 from her opponent. The World No.30 wrapped up the opener in just 23 minutes, and broke immediately at the start of the second set courtesy of a Raducanu double fault. In this stretch, Kalinina did not even face a game point.
However, Raducanu's forehand made the second set a different story. A crosscourt winner from that wing enabled her to get on the board, breaking Kalinina back for 1-1. Time and again, the 21-year-old found down-the-line scorchers to get out of trouble, saving one break point at 1-1 and a whopping five more at 3-3. Overall, Raducanu saved 10 out of the 15 break points she faced, while converting both of her opportunities on Kalinina's serve.
Even after the forehand let Raducanu down to get broken at 5-5, she stayed committed to going after it. She saved two match points as Kalinina served for the win, the second with yet another forehand down the line, and forced a tiebreak after some ferocious returning.
However, Kalinina was more solid when it mattered. Raducanu held one set point, but Kalinina bossed it from start to finish with her own forehand. A superb all-court exchange brought up a third match point for the 27-year-old, duly converted as Raducanu netted a backhand.
Fernandez upsets Samsonova to advance: Leylah Fernandez, who was runner-up to Raducanu at the 2021 US Open, came through a tight opener against No.12 seed Liudmila Samsonova 7-5, 7-6 in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Redirecting Samsonova's pace impressively, the Canadian led 5-2 in the second set, and held her first three match points on her opponent's serve at 5-4. Samsonova fought back to force a tiebreak, but Fernandez regained control to seal victory.
The result avenged Fernandez's 6-3, 7-6(3) loss to Samsonova in the second round of the 2022 US Open, their only previous meeting. It was also her fourth Top 20 win in the past seven months, and 12th overall.
Fernandez will next face wild card Paula Badosa, who survived a barrage of big hitting from 19-year-old qualifier Ashlyn Krueger 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Badosa had led 4-2 in the third set overnight after play was halted on Sunday due to rain.
Azarenka survives three-set tussle with Frech: Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka also moved on, battling past qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours and 34 minutes. She will play either No.10 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia or Wang Xinyu in the second round, with the winner to face either Ostapenko or Kalinina in the Round of 16.
"She has a game style that makes you look like you're not playing well," Azarenka said of Frech afterwards. "I think I got caught a little bit in the second set with that. I was paying a bit too much attention to my mistakes. She's getting a lot of balls in, putting a lot of different spins -- with the wind, it's not easy. I'm very glad I was able to reset in the third set."
Frech's challenge also included one of the best shots of the tournament so far. The World No.52, who is fresh off making the fourth round of a major for the first time at the Australian Open, covered the whole court to retrieve multiple Azarenka drop shots and lobs before flicking a pass past the former World No.1.