Doha: Day-2. Survival of the Fittest.

What a mess. What an exciting, intense, dramatic, confrontational, beautiful mess for the true tennis fan. Doha’s day-two was a circus of marathon three-setters, post-match stare-downs, sudden retirements, unexpected doubles-draw additions, and one of the latest finishes in the history of the tournament.

First up on center court, qualifier Kirsten Flipkens – who had already played three matches to reach the main-draw – forced 3-sets out of Andra Petkovic, the #6-seed. After the match, I reminded Andrea that their past three matches have all gone the distance, featuring five tie-break sets. With a grin, she compared their battles to those of John Isner and Ivo Karlovic. Andrea took the third-set 6-2 to advance to the Round of 16, where she’ll face Zarina Diyas. Andrea fell to Diyas last week in Dubai…the match that featured Andrea’s justified melt-down after a terrible call late in the first set. I told her not to worry, we have a new team of linespeople here in Doha…

Tuesday’s second First-round match on center court featured doubles teammates Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro from Spain. The two have played a lot of tennis over the past two weeks. In Dubai, Muguruza defeated Suarez Navarro in the Quarterfinals; then together, the two would play through to the Doubles Final just three days ago. To put it into perspective, with Muguruza’s SF-finish in Dubai, she played nine matches over seven days, while Suarez Navarro played eight. On Tuesday night, down 5-6 in the first-set, Muguruza called the trainer to the court…then abruptly forfeited the match before the chair umpire could call “time.” Suarez Navarro now moves on to face Karolina Pliskova (Dubai finalist last week, after defeating Muguruza in the semifinal) in Doha’s Round of 16.

Muguruza’s retirement from the tournament left an empty hole in the doubles-draw. Andrea Petkovic was still around after her win over Flipkens. So, remarkably, at the last minute, Andrea teamed with Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova to take-on Alla Kudryavtseva and Katarina Srebotnik Tuesday night. The Russians would defeat the unexpected pairing in a second-set tie-break.

While on the topic, the doubles draw did see its share of surprises on day-two. A Doha favorite, Martina Hingis (first Qatar Total Open singles champion in 2001), fell in her First-round match with partner Flavia Pennetta. Casey Dellacqua and Hao-Ching Chan delivered the blow in two sets.

And with First-round singles success, Lucie Safarova and Karolina Pliskova withdrew from the doubles competition, leaving an empty slot for opponents Gabriela Dabrowski and Marina Erakovic. Ukrainians Yuliya Beygelzimer and Olga Savchuk stepped-in, but fell in a match tie-break.

Tuesday’s third match on Center court was the first of our marathon double-header. In a match that lasted nearly three hours, Qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru outlasted Alize Cornet to reach the Round of 16. Alexandra was down 1-4, but managed to come-back and take the first set. Alize would take it to a decider by capturing set-2. Then Dulgheru delivered the win in the third: 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Don’t let the scoreline fool you. It was a tight match the entire way. Extended rallies all came down to grueling exchanges at deuce, and both were struggling to catch their breath between points. After the win, Dulgheru climbed into the stands to celebrate with Romanian fans. “What can I say? I have cramps. I don’t know how I won,” said Dulgheru during our on-court interview. After four matches in four days, Dulgheru now faces the three-seed Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday for a spot in the Quarterfinals.

Venus Williams and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova capped Doha’s day-two with a match that started after 10:30pm. It was another slug-fest that took us past 1:30 in the morning. Venus would take the first 7-5, relinquish the second 3-6, save match point at 5-6 in the third, then deliver the win (7-5) in the tie-break. Though incredibly talented, Barbora is well-known for being an on-court emotional basket-case. She provided plenty of fireworks and drama Tuesday night:

  • At the start of the match – pissed at herself – she managed to whack her Achilles tendon so hard with her racket that she needed to call the trainer to the court from some pain killers.
  • After dropping the first set, she called her coach to the court to scold him for not being emotionally invested. I believe that’s called “projection” in psychology-speak.
  • Twice in the third-set, the chair umpire allowed Venus challenges that seemed to come late. In fact, during the tie-break, the chair was in the middle of giving the score when Venus decided to challenge. When it was allowed, Barbora flipped-out: “You are having a very bad day…and you know it. But you are allowing it because she is a very good player,” barked Zahlavova Strycova. She was then given a warning for verbal abuse after cussing-out the chair in Czeck. “What did I say? Do you even know what I said? I said you are a horrible person, that is all.”
  • Finally, after Venus captured the win, there was an epic stare-down at the net…

What a mess. What an exciting, intense, dramatic, confrontational, beautiful mess. Day-2 of the Qatar Total Open 2015.

Venus is now 12-2 on the year and said after the match: “It was hard work today, it was three hours of awesome tennis and I’m excited to be still in the tournament.” With a day off Wednesday, look for her at the Souq Waqif…from what she tells me, she needs pearls.

RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2015. Second Round Singles.

[7] Venus Williams (USA) d Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5)

RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2015. First Round Singles.

[6] Andrea Petkovic (GER) d [Q] Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2
[9] Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) d Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-5, ret.
[Q] Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM) d Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) d [LL] Saisai Zheng (CHN) 6-0, 6-2
Karolina Plisokova (CZE) d [Q] Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 7-6(4), 6-4
Elina Svitolina (UKR) d Daria Gavrilova (RUS) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) d [WC] Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-3, 6-2

RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2015. First Round Doubles.

[1] Su-Wei Hseih (TPE) / Sania Mirza (IND) d Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Arantxa Parra Santonja (ESP)
6-2, 6-1
[2] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) / Elena Vesnina (RUS) d Darija Jurak (CRO) / Klara Koukalova (CZE)
6-1, 6-4
Hao-Ching Chan (TPE) / Casey Dellacqua (AUS) d [3] Martina Hingis (SUI) / Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
7-6(5), 6-4
Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) / Marina Erakovic (NZL) d Yuliya Beygelzimer (UKR) / Olga Savchuk (UKR)
4-6, 6-2, 10-8
[WC] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) / Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) d [WC] Fatma Al Nabhani (OMA) / Saisai Zheng (CHN)
6-3, 6-4
Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) / Katarina Srebotnik (RUS) d Andrea Petkovic (GER) / Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
7-5, 7-6(5)

Wednesday. Qatar Total Open 2015. Day Three. Second Round Singles.
[1] Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
[3] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs [Q] Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU)
[4] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
[5] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs Lucie Safarova (CZE)
[6] Andrea Petkovic (GER) vs Zarina Diyas (KAZ)
[9] Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
[WC] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs Elina Svitolina (UKR)

Wednesday. Qatar Total Open 2015. Day Three. First Round Doubles.
Julia Goerges (GER) / Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER) vs M. Krajicek (NED) / B. Zahlavova Strycova (CZE)

Wednesday. Qatar Total Open 2015. Day Three. Second Round Doubles.
Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) / Katerina Srebotnik (SLO) vs [2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)