Doha: Belarusian Victoria Azarenka advanced to the second round of the WTA 1000 Qatar TotalEnergies Open after defeating Pole qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha on Monday afternoon.
On the other hand, Former World No.1 Naomi Osaka returned to her winning ways on Monday, as she defeated No.15 seed Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4 in their first-round clash.
Osaka claimed a measure of revenge with the 1-hour and 28-minute win in Doha. She avenged her first-round loss to Garcia earlier this year at the Australian Open, which was Osaka’s first Grand Slam appearance since her maternity leave began at the end of 2022.
“Honestly I feel like I’m a much better player now,” Osaka said, comparing her two 2024 showdowns with Garcia. “I think in Australia my returns weren’t as good, and I don’t feel like I was as focused as I am now.
“I think that definitely made a difference, especially against such a good server like she is.” In the second round, Osaka will take on Petra Martic of Croatia. Former Top 15 player Martic needed to go the distance on Monday before squeaking past Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) in just under three hours of play.
Osaka won her only previous encounter with Martic, which came 10 years ago in the final qualifying round at 2014 Stanford. By defeating Martic in that match, a 16-year-old Osaka earned a spot in her first-ever WTA main draw (and then promptly upset Samantha Stosur in the first round).
Garcia won her first 11 service points to kick off the rematch.
However, Osaka finally got a look in on Garcia’s serve in 2024, grasping two break points when Garcia was serving for the set at 5-4. The Japanese star’s imposing returns earned her a break at last to reach 5-5.
Suddenly it was Osaka in the ascendancy as she fended off two break points to reach 6-5. Osaka then powered her way to a commanding love break, winning her fourth straight game to eke out the one-set lead from 5-3 down.
Osaka earned one more break -- in the last game of the match, to close out the win. Garcia had eight more winners than Osaka in the match, but Osaka countered with eight fewer unforced errors. Osaka was also a perfect 3-for-3 on break points, while Garcia went 1-for-8.
Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Iga Swiatek needed just 61 minutes to open her latest campaign with a victory, as the World No.1 defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-1 in Monday’s second round.
Swiatek is one of five women who’ve won the singles title in Doha twice, and is seeking to becoming the first to win three titles at the event, which dates back to 2001.
She got off to the races quickly towards that overall goal. Against Cirstea, she won five straight games in the first set, and six in a row to take the second to advance to a third-round meeting with either Erika Andreeva or No.14 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.