Match Recap from Announcer Andy Taylor, Voice of the Qatar Total Open
Aryna Sabalenka advances to the Championship Match
Make it back-to-back Premier-5 Finals for Aryna Sabalenka. Last September, she upset World #1 Ashleigh Barty en-route to the championship match in Wuhan, where she defended her title. At the time, it was a huge lift. Four weeks prior, she fell in Round-2 of the US Open. Even though she went on to capture her first Doubles Major with Elise Mertens, the Singles loss stung. Typically a relentless “barbarian” on court, she felt timid and began to question her confidence.
The Barty victory erased all doubts. Not only did she win the Wuhan title — a month later she went undefeated in Zhuhai, capping 2019 by winning the WTA Elite Trophy.
The off-season (or pre-season as she calls it) should have marinated in positive energy. Instead, a month after her Zhuhai win, Aryna’s 43-year-old father passed away. It was devastating.
This season, after an early loss in Shezhen, Sabalenka went on to upset World #4 Simona Halep to reach the Adelaide Semifinal. In Melbourne, she suffered another early loss at a Major, falling to Carla Suarez Navarro in the 1st-Round. Since then, she earned a breathtaking, Tie-deciding Fed Cup doubles victory to lift Belarus to the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest.
After last week’s Quarterfinal run in Dubai, and reigniting her fighting-spirit this week in Doha – Aryna has rediscovered her Wuhan “mojo” here in Qatar. She went full-on Gladiator tonight against a surging Kuznetsova. Expect the same in the championship.
Head to Head: Third meeting between these two players
 Aryna Sabalenka -13- (BLR) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
A 2-time Premier-5 Champion, she’s here in Doha for the first time – and defeated Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari and Zheng SaiSai to reach tonight’s Semifinal. Last season, she lit it up — In Singles, she captured 3 of her 5 career titles, including the year-end WTA Elite Trophy, and cracked the top-10 for the first time. In Doubles, she and partner Elise Mertens won back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Miami, then lifted their first Grand Slam trophy at the US Open. She owns 12-wins over top-10 opponents, and earned her biggest scalp back in September, defeating World #1 Ashleigh Barty en-route to her 2nd Wuhan Open title. From Belarus – please welcome Aryna Sabalenka.
- SF — W | Svetlana Kuznetsova -46- (RUS) | Score: 6-4, 6-3
- QF — W | Saisai Zheng -37- (CHN) | Score: 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 | RECAP
- R3 — W |  Maria Sakkari -20- (GRE) | Score: 6-3, 6-0 | RECAP
- R2 — W | Anett Kontaveit -22- (EST) | Score: 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
Announcer Corner | Doha: Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka is excited to be here. Last season, she took a week off between Fed Cup and Dubai. Meanwhile, her long-time doubles partner Elise Mertens captured the Doha Singles title behind three top-10 upsets. In the Quarters, Mertens bested World #8 Kiki Bertens. In the Semi’s, she upset World #6 Angelique Kerber. And in the championship match – down a set and a break – Elise came back to defeat top-seed and World #3 Simona Halep.
The 9-seed this week, Aryna got off to a fortunate start in her Doha debut. After Halep’s victory in the Dubai Final Saturday night, Simona withdrew from the Qatar Total Open. That withdrawal granted Aryna a 1st-Round Bye. Rested and ready, she opened her campaign in Round-2 versus Anett Kontaveit, who had battled for an hour and 39-minutes with Anastasija Sevastova the day before. Anette launched a stellar comeback in set-2, but Aryna proved too stong in the 3rd – winning the match with a late break in the decider.
After a quick win over Maria Sakkari and today’s tense battle with an inspired SaiSai Zheng, Sabalanka’s back in the Final-4 of a WTA Premier-5 for the fourth time. 18-months ago, she reached her first Premier-5 Semifinal in Cincinnati. She won back-to-back titles in Wuhan. A victory this week would make her a 3-time Premier-5 champion, and get her one step closer to breaking back inside the top-10.
Aryna Sabalenka | Overcoming heartbreak and continuing to excel
It’s encouraging to see Sabalenka’s continued success. She had a terrible off-season. Shortly after winning the year-end WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, her father unexpectedly passed away at just 43 years old. Suddenly she found herself without the encouraging rock who introduced her to the game. Aryna’s Dad always pushed her, with unquestioned belief that she could one day become World #1.
Her determined persistence this season is a tribute to her Dad’s love and support. While she fell early in Shenzhen during week-1 – the following week she upset Simona Halep to reach the Adelaide Semifinals. Earlier this month, she partnered with Aliaksandra Sasnovich to earn a thrilling, deciding-set tiebreak victory over the Netherlands, lifting Belarus into the Fed Cup Finals this April. Last week, she reached the Quarters in Dubai, falling to eventual champion Simona Halep.
Like Amanda Anisimova and Jelena Ostapenko – who also lost their Dads in the last 6-months – Aryna continues to fight, honoring her father’s years of sacrifice, helping her pursue greatness.
Svetlana Kuznetsova -46- (RUS) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
In 2003, she made her Doha debut at just 17-years-old. The following year – on this very court – she earned her first career victory over a World #1, defeating Justin Henin to reach the 2004 Final; then went-on to capture the Doubles title. Now – 16-years-later – she is one of the most accomplished talents on Tour. She owns 2 Grand Slam Singles titles, 2 Major Doubles titles, is a 3-time Fed Cup Champion, and has amassed 34 Singles and Doubles titles in 73 career Finals combined. Through to this year’s Semifinals with a victory over this year’s #4-seed Belina Bencic – From Russia, please welcome 2004 and 2007 Doha Finalist, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
- SF — L |  Aryna Sabalenka -13- (BLR) | Score: 4-6, 3-6
- QF — W |  Belinda Bencic -09- (SUI) | Score: 6-4, 6-4 | RECAP
- R3 — wo | Amanda Anisimova -29- (USA) | walkover | RECAP
- R2 — W | Iga Swiatek -50- (POL) | Score: 6-2 6-2 | RECAP
- R1 — W | [WC] Cagla Buyukakcay -172- (TUR) | Score: 6-2 6-2 | RECAP
Announcer Corner | Doha: Svetlana Kuznetsova
While Svetlana has won two WTA Premier Mandatory titles (2006 Miami Open, 2009 China Open) – she’s never won a Premier-5 title. That’s not for a lack of effort. She’s actually a 5-time Premier-5 Finalist. Including her run to Cincinnati’s championship match last August – shortly after resolving her visa issues that kept her from defending points in Washington D.C., which nearly dropped her ranking outside the top-200. While she’s a 2-time Finalist here in Doha (2004, 2007), it’s never happened with a field of 64.