Qatar Open: Kerber, Halep stunned; Mirza-Hingis stretch winning run to 41
They were the tournament’s top two seeds and were expected to cruise in their opening rounds, but both Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep were surprisingly shown the door at the Qatar Total Open in Doha on Tuesday. While the top seed and Australian Open champion Kerber bowed out 5-7, 1-6 to Saisai Zheng, second seed Halep squandered a lead to collapse to a 7-6, 4-6, 1-6 defeat to Elena Vesnina.
Kerber was far from the player who stunned Serena Williams in the final of the Australian Open a little over three weeks back. Lacking in motivation, she put up an absolutely listless performance against the 72nd ranked Chinese Zheng. There was none of the aggression she showed all throughout her campaign at Melbourne. Clearly, the German needs time to adjust to her newfound stardom and the burden of expectations that comes with it.
Zheng now goes on to meet the resurgent Eugenie Bouchard who is once again showing flashes of her brilliance after a miserable 2015. The Canadian defeated Denisa Allertova 7-6, 7-5 to enter the third round.
Halep suffers mighty collapse
World No. 4 Simona Halep, meanwhile, has failed to replicate her dazzling start to the 2015 season as she slumped to yet another defeat. The Romanian, who was ousted in the first round at the season’s first Grand Slam, is searching desperately for her lost spark. This latest defeat at Doha marks her fifth loss of 2016 out of eight matches.
Tuesday’s loss, especially, was heartbreaking for the former French Open runner-up as she was up 7-6, 4-1 from where she lost 11 of the next 12 games.
Bencic, Safarova bite the dust too
Some of the other big names too joined the exodus of seeds on Tuesday as 6th seed Belinda Bencic, 12th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 14th seed Jelena Jankovic and 16th seed Sara Errani all fell. Seventh seed and defending champion Lucie Safarova’s fortunes were no different as she lost 6-7, 5-7 to Turkish wildcard Cagla Buyukakcay. This was the Czech’s first match of 2016 after falling prey to a bacterial infection earlier in the year.
Ninth seed and St Petersburg champion Roberta Vinci, however, survived three match points to outlast 18-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6.
There was no such trouble for the third seed and 2015 Australian Open semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole continues her fine start to 2016 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the 75th ranked qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko. The fifth seed Petra Kvitova was challenged by her compatriot and Dubai runner-up Barbora Strycova but she came through with flying colours, 7-6, 6-4.
In a late match, fourth seed Garbine Muguruza trounced 60th ranked Japanese Nao Hibino, 6-2, 6-0.
41st consecutive win for Mirza-Hingis
Meanwhile, the tournament’s doubles top seeds, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis were tested in their opening match by the Chinese pair of Yi-Fan Xu and Saisai Zheng but they came through, 6-4, 4-6, 10-4. The match lasted 1 hour 24 minutes.
This was the dominant Indo-Swiss pair’s 41st consecutive win as they continue to remain undefeated since the US Open last year. They have won titles at Brisbane, Sydney, the Australian Open and St Petersburg this season.