DOHA, Qatar - No.3 seed Angelique Kerber stormed into the quarterfinals at the Qatar Total Open, needing two sets to edge past Anett Kontaveit in her opening match.
Kerber, a former finalist here in Doha, also got the chance to avenge her dismal record against the Estonian, having won a combined four games against Kontaveit in their previous two meetings. Those past matches took place on clay, with Kontaveit triumphing 6-4, 6-0 in 2017 Rome, and then receiving a retirement from Kerber at 2018 Stuttgart after leading 6-0, 2-0.
“We always played on clay, so it's always a little bit different,” Kerber explained afterwards. “I don't look back on my clay court results.
“I was more trying to focusing on another day, another match, and just try to learn from the last matches that I played against her.”
Playing her first match since the Australian Open on the hardcourts of the Khalifa International Tennis Complex, Kerber brought out her best tennis - despite a late wobble when it came time to serve out the match.
She led by a set and a break when Kontaveit began to mount an improbable comeback, turning around a 6-1, 4-1 deficit to level the score at 5-5 in the second set - saving six match points in three games along the way.
“In the second set, she had nothing to lose at the end,” Kerber told press. “She played better and better. And, yeah, I was always really close to win the match, but she was always fighting. At the end I was happy that I closed it out in two sets and played good in the tiebreak.”
Kerber raised her level when it counted, and eventually claimed the victory in a tiebreaker, winning 6-1, 7-6(3). The German fired 10 winners to 13 unforced errors, and won five of the 16 break point chances she created against Kontaveit.
Up next, Kerber will face the always-dangerous Barbora Strycova in the Qatar Total Open quarterfinals. Strycova emerged victorious in a rollercoaster clash against qualifier Anna Blinkova, overcoming a mid-match slump to win 6-0, 3-6, 6-0.
“I know what to expect against her,” Kerber said. “I know that I have to play my tennis. Yeah, she played good here already. We practiced a few times together.
“You know, it will be tricky match, because you never know how the weather conditions are here as well tomorrow. But, yeah, I'm looking forward to playing another good match here.”