We take a look at the Qatar Open Selected Round of 16 Matches between Aryna Sabalenka and Garbine Muguruza as well as Anett Kontaveit against Angelique Kerber.
WTA Tour 2021
WTA 500 Series
Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 16 Matches- 3 March 2021
Aryna Sabalenka (3) (84/100) vs Garbine Muguruza (94/100)There’s something of the Amelie Mauresmo about Sabalenka. Her powerful frame makes for an intimidating presence on the other side of the net. The 22-year-old has become one of the most consistent players on tour. Since winning the WTA Elite Trophy in 2019, she has gone from strength to strength, winning three titles in last year’s hugely disrupted campaign. She actually entered the 2021 season on a nine-match winning streak, having won titles at Ostrava and Linz to end 2020. She only extended this streak with a title victory in Abu Dhabi. She lost a nail-biting match to Serena Williams at Melbourne, going toe-to-toe with Williams from the baseline. Perhaps she could emerge as a long-term rival for the force that is Naomi Osaka. Sabalenka also happens to be the defending champion in this very event.
Speaking about pulsating three-set matches, how about Muguruza’s epic match against Osaka in Melbourne. She pushed the Japanese further than anyone else in the event. The two-time Grand Slam Champion actually entered Melbourne riding something of a wave, reaching the final of her pre-Slam preparation event in Adelaide. It actually is part of a broader narrative of improvement for Muguruza. The 27-year-old came back in 2020 with a bang, reaching her maiden Aussie Open final. Her reunion with Conchita Martinez seems to be the ideal fit for the Spaniard. Muguruza is at an interesting juncture in her career. Still just 27, she still feels like one of the elder stateswomen on tour. The influx of so many powerful young players means that the likes of Muguruza have to keep current and continually work on their game. The 2018 Qatar Finalist is a real technician who seems to have found some much needed focus over the past 15 months.
Sabalenka leads the head-to-head 1-0, with a straight sets victory in the 2018 China Open. This is poised to be a cracking hardcourt dual, with Sabalenka’s ultra-aggressive style coming up against the court craft of Muguruza. Both of these players are in really good form and looked excellent in Melbourne. This is a tight one but I have to side with Sabalenka. Muguruza is still too inconsistent to confidently back.
Anett Kontaveit (29/100) vs Angelique Kerber (5/2)
Estonian Anett Kontaveit just upset the apple cart to some extent. Everyone knew she is a talented player. But few would have given her much chance against Jennifer Brady. The Aussie Open finalist was the underwhelming favourite going into this match. But Kontaveit demolished her in less than an hour. She managed to win nearly 70% of her 2nd serves, a notoriously fickle part of her makeup. Kontaveit actually entered the Aussie Open in fine form, having shared the Grampians Trophy with Ann Li. Kontaveit had a solid if unremarkable 2020. She reached her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal but generally performed slightly poorer than in 2019. Kontaveit is a solid hardcourt player coming off a major victory. Next up she faces a multiple Grand Slam winner who has gone slightly off the boil of late.
Angelique Kerber can still win the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros this year. That’s fairly crazy to believe. The German lefty is currently in one of those periodic slumps that have come to define her rollercoaster career. Ever since winning the 2018 Wimbledon title she has been in a funk. She generally motivates herself best for Grand Slam tennis: she reached the 4th round of last year’s US Open. But since then, it has been a procession of disappointment. Opening round defeats in Paris and Rome ended her 2020 campaign. Her Aussie Open campaign was almost over before it begun. She was drawn to play World Number 66 Bernarda Pera. She suffered the indignity of losing the first set to love in just 19 minutes! Her first-round elimination in Melbourne certainly rang some alarm bells. At least she has survived her first test this week, easily overcoming Cagla Buyukakcay in the opening round.
Anett Kontaveit actually has an impressive record against the German. She leads the head-to-head 3-1, with their last match coming on the hardcourts of Cincinnati in 2019. This one is Kontaveit all the way for me. She is a proven hardcourt dynamo coming off a huge victory against the explosive Brady.