Six Doha Qualifiers to Reach the Main Draw
Yesterday, a Lucky Loser position opened up in the 2019 Doha draw with Petra Martic’s withdrawal. Today, an additional Lucky Loser slot materialized with the withdrawal of Ashleigh Barty.
Through several rain delays – Ajla Tomljanovic, Anna Blinkova, Lin Zhu and Karolina Muchova all advanced to the main draw with Qualifying Final Round victories. After their losses, Alison Riske and Doha resident Polona Hercog accepted the Lucky Loser vacancies.
Four Qualifying Victors. Yet six advance to the Main Draw
-  Ajla Tomljanovic -41- (AUS) def  Polona Hercog -88- (SLO) 63 64
- Lin Zhu -108- (CHN) def  Alison Riske -52- (USA) 62 61
- Anna Blinkova -95- (RUS) def  Sam Stosur -73- (AUS) 76(1) 36 64
- Karolina Muchova -133- (CZE) def Liudmila Samsonova -168- (RUS) 61 36 61
What a mess. Doha’s Scheduling Nightmare worsens with Desert Rain
Let’s stroll through this year’s withdrawal wreckage. Before qualifying began on Saturday, the 2019 Qatar Total Open experienced 18 player withdrawals – thanks mostly to the inevitable travel challenges that arise when hosting a Premier event on the heels of Fed Cup.
- 15 of those withdrawals were Qualifiers – essentially half of the qualifying field.
- 3 main draw commits also bailed – including World #1 Naomi Osaka (injury), Madison Keys (Fed Cup) and Qiang Wang (injury).
Miraculously, after lifting 3 qualifiers to the main draw (Petra Martic, Katerina Siniakova, Barbora Strycova), Tournament Supervisor Tony Cho somehow managed to add 17 talents to the qualifying roster, just one shy of a complete 32-player field.
Qualifying now included doubles aces like Abigail Spears and Hao-Ching Chan; not to mention World #651 Shuko Aoyama – who hadn’t won a main draw Tour-level singles match since 2017. Ajla Tomljanovic, the top qualifying seed, received a 1st-Round Bye.
Crazy enough, withdrawals kept coming. So did the rain.
After Round-1 of qualifying on Saturday, Petra Martic withdrew – opening up a Lucky Loser position in the main draw. Then, on Monday morning, Petra’s 1st-Round opponent Ashleigh Barty withdrew. The #8-seed was still in North Carolina after Australia’s deciding Fed Cup doubles victory over Team USA.
There were now two Lucky Loser positions in the draw. To make matters worse, rain wreaked further havoc on Monday. Thankfully, only five matches were scheduled:
- The remaining four Qualifying matches
- Barbora Strycova’s Round-1 rematch with Wild Card Fatma Al Nabhani
Strycova won it 61 61. Oddly enough, 2-years-ago during another rain-soaked Qatar Total Open, Barbora and Fatma didn’t play their Round-1 match until Day-3 (Wednesday). Strycova won it 63 60 – then hours later, took the court to play her Round of 16 match with Sam Stosur. She and Sam played a single game before rain cancelled play for the day.
Play completed, the Draw solidified with two Lucky Losers
Through several starts and stops – and by shifting the Riske vs Zhu match to Court-1 – at the end of the day, all five matches were completed with a promising forecast on the horizon.
In the end – Ajla Tomljanovic, Karolina Muchova, Anna Blinkova, and Lin Zhu advanced to the main draw – while Barbora Strycova won her 1st-Round match over Fatma Al Nabhani.
As the moon finally poked its nose through diminishing storm clouds – Polona Hercog and Alison Riske filled the two Lucky Loser holes left behind by 2019’s scheduling carnage. Oddly enough, they’ll face each other on Tuesday.
Exhausting. After 20 player withdrawals, the 2019 Doha trophy belongs to Tournament Supervisor Tony Cho.
✔  Ajla Tomljanovic -41- (AUS) def  Polona Hercog -88- (SLO) 63 64
On the heels of her Finalist run at last week’s Taiwan Open, Ajla Tomljanovic comes into Doha with a career-high ranking of World #41. Thanks to the 15 qualifier withdrawals just days before the tournament – as the top-seed, she received an opening round BYE.
After a tough 3-set clash with Shuko Aoyama on Sunday – today, she overcame an early break and two rain delays to the main draw in her Doha debut.
Now a 4-time Finalist on Tour, a deep Doha run would rekindle the bombardment of attention Tomljanovic received back in 2014, when she upset World #3 Agnieszka Radwanska at Roland Garros to reach the Round of 16 at a Major for the first time.
▲ QR2  Ajla Tomljanovic -41- (AUS) def Shuko Aoyama -651- (JPN) | 75 67(6) 64
▲ QR1 BYE
✔ Karolina Muchova -133- (CZE) def Liudmila Samsonova -168- (RUS) 61 36 61
Fantastic weekend for Karolina Muchova. With wins over a local Wild Card, Kristyna Pliskova, and today’s victory over a red-hot Samsonova – the Czech is through to the main draw in her Doha debut.
Her clash with Liudmila was the first match on Court-1. So, like Tomljanovic, Karolina faced two rain delays. After splitting sets 1 and 2, when Muchova finally got back on court after the second soaker, she never looked back.
A 3-time Finalist on the ITF Circuit last year, Karolina Muchova first turned heads at the 2018 US Open. Not only did she qualify at a Major for the first time, she won her 1st-Round match over Dayana Yastremska -98- (UKR), then upset 2-time Grand Slam Champion Garbine Muguruza -12- (ESP) to reach the 3rd-Round.
This year, she started the season with a career-high ranking of World #130, then qualified for the Australian Open for the first time. Aside from her New York breakthrough last Summer, she hasn’t qualified for the main draw of a WTA event since Seoul in September of 2017.
The 22-year-old is hungry, and ready to commit to the next level.
▲ QR2 Karolina Muchova -133- (CZE) def  Kristyna Pliskova -90- (CZE) | 63 46 64
▲ QR1 Karolina Muchova -133- (CZE) def [WC] Mubaraka Al-Naimi -No Rank- (QAT) | 60 60
✔ Anna Blinkova -95- (RUS) def  Sam Stosur -73- (AUS) 76(1) 36 64
Another big Doha victory for Anna Blinkova.
Last year, at just 19-years-old, she was a determined machine. She started 2018 ranked outside the top-100, but qualified for every tournament she entered in the first 7-weeks – including the Qatar Total Open.
At the time, she was the World #164. Not only did she qualify, she upset both Elena Vesnina -23- (RUS) and  Kristina Mladenovic -13- (FRA) to reach the Final-16. Big stuff. It remains her deepest Premier-5 run to date.
While Sam Stosur may not be the foreboding Grand Slam Champion she was 7-years-ago when she reached the Doha Final — this is another confidence boosting upset for the 20-year-old Russian. Thanks to the incessant rain, tonight’s victory required tremendous mental stamina against an experienced veteran who’s seen it all.
This year, the Qatar Total Open is a Premier event on Tour. If she can earn two more main draw victories, she’ll reach the Quarterfinals.
▲ QR2 Anna Blinkova -95- (RUS) def  Bernarda Pera -82- (USA) | 75 62
▲ QR1 Anna Blinkova -95- (RUS) def [WC] Emily Webley-Smith -506- (GBR) | 62 61
✔ Lin Zhu -108- (CHN) def  Alison Riske -52- (USA) 62 61
Originally, Zhu and Riske were scheduled to play third on Center Court. When rain interrupted Blinkova and Stosur for the second (or maybe it was the third) time, Tony Cho moved the match to Court-1 – with dim hopes that it would even get completed.
As Anna and Sam finally got the 3rd-set underway on Center Court, Lin and Alison headed next door.
Determined to keep it quick, Lin Zhu took the “all or nothing” approach. She came out firing, and it worked. Despite straight-sets victories over Anna Kalinskya and Jennifer Brady on Saturday and Sunday, Alison Riske had zero answers for the Zhu onslaught.
The late night, rain delayed victory makes Lin Zhu the third player at this year’s Qatar Total Open to qualify in her Doha debut.
Last month, she won her 8th title on the ITF circuit – shortly after qualifying at the Australian Open for the 3rd consecutive year. She’s been knocking on the top-100’s door for three years now. A deep Premier run this week may just get her over the hump.
▲ QR2 Lin Zhu -108- (CHN) def Madison Brengle -97- (USA) | 61 63
▲ QR1 Lin Zhu -108- (CHN) def Alexandra Dulgheru -164- (ROU) | 46 61 64