Fixture: (3) Aryna Sabalenka vs Garbine Muguruza
Date: 3 March 2021
Tournament: Qatar Total Open 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 16)
Venue: Doha, Qatar
Category: WTA 500
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $565,530
Match timing: Not before 6 pm local time, 8.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel
Aryna Sabalenka vs Garbine Muguruza preview
Both Sabalenka and Muguruza started their 2021 season in impressive fashion. Sabalenka picked up from where she left off in 2020 and reigned supreme in Abu Dhabi for her third consecutive title. The Ostrava and Linz champion's 15-match winning streak then came to an end at the Gippsland Trophy, but she rebounded at the Australian Open.
Sabalenka charged her way into the fourth round of the Melbourne Slam without dropping a set. It was there that she met a huge stumbling block in the form of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.
Even though Sabalenka ultimately bowed out, she would be proud of the gritty fight she put up in her 4-6, 6-2, 4-6 loss.
The World No. 8 is now aiming to become the second Belarusian after Victoria Azarenka to successfully defend her Doha title. But it won't be easy, with two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza standing in her way in the second round.
Following a pre-quarterfinal defeat at Abu Dhabi, Muguruza came alive on the fast hardcourts at the Yarra Valley Classic. The Spaniard conceded just 10 games on her way to the summit clash, where she went down to World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty.
At the Australian Open, Muguruza was the only player to take a set off eventual champion Naomi Osaka. The 27-year-old held multiple match points, but her failure to close it out meant her journey was cut short in the Round of 16.
Unseeded in Doha, Muguruza started her campaign with a 6-2, 7-6(4) win over the tricky Veronika Kudermetova on Monday.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Garbine Muguruza head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka leads Garbine Muguruza 1-0 in the head-to-head, having won their solitary meeting so far. The Belarusian held off Muguruza to win 7-5, 6-4 at Beijing in 2018.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Garbine Muguruza prediction
With two of the hardest hitters on the tour squaring off against each other, this match will likely have a lot of fireworks. Both Garbine Muguruza and Aryna Sabalenka have their games centered on a strong serve and powerful groundstrokes.
The last time the two crossed swords, Muguruza was able to win only 51% of her first-serve points. She also faced as many as 16 break points, out of which Sabalenka converted four.
For Muguruza to have any chance at exacting revenge, it is imperative that she finds her first serve. Even against Veronika Kudermetova in the Doha first round, the Spaniard dropped her serve twice - something she can't afford to repeat against a solid returner like Sabalenka.
The Belarusian has improved her foot speed and defense since their last meeting, which was evident in her close loss to Serena Williams in Melbourne. If Sabalenka continues to hit with the kind of depth and precision that she has shown over the past two months, she is likely to score her second win over Muguruza.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in three sets.