The first round is down in Doha…and we certainly had our share of unexpected drama on center court. First up, despite dropping the first three games of the match, Francesca Schiavone ‘RASSLED with Magdalena Rybarikova for over 3-hours…to lose the match 3-7 in a third-set tie-break. The 2010 French Open champ is now 0-5 in 2014. She’s 33 now. But don’t tell her I told you.
In the second match, last month’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova (the #10 seed) looked like she was ready to retch all over the court by the end of the warm-up. Sure enough, at 5-all (15-love) in the first, the poor girl sprinted off the court and disappeared into the player’s locker room. She never resurfaced. I’ll allow your imagination to do the rest. Wild-card Alisa Kleybanova advanced with the retirement, noting post-match – this was actually her first win of the year. I like Alisa. A lot. and not just ‘cuz she beat stage-2 Hodgkins Lymphoma. She’s been in the top-20. She’s committed to getting there again.
Okay. Center court’s third match ALSO saw an early retirement. Daniela Hantuchova was absolutely O W N I N G Ana Ivanovic. That fuzzy Wilson was looking like a beach ball to her. She’d send Anna left…right…left. When Ivanovic anticipated cross-court, Daniela was up the line. Coming to the net was useless. If Hantuchova didn’t hammer the line with unreal angles, she was tossing unreachable, elegant lobs. Damn. The woman was playing solid tennis…until she tweaked the knee. Down a break, Ana would come back to win the first set; and after game-one in set-2, Hantuchova called it quits. Whatevs…
Enter Sam Stosur. Always fit. Always prepared. Game-plan in place, she took Kiwi Erakovic to the woodshed 6-4, 6-2…then tolerated my crappy post-match, fluff-ball questions regarding the cooler-conditions, what it’ll take to win in Doha, and her historic Fed Cup win for Australia over the weekend. Hey, the woman’s a champ. When she’s in rhythm, the machine that is her determination can own all comers. Go back in time and ask Serena Williams on 9/11/11.
Other seeds who fell today: Kirsten Flipkens (to Lucie Safarova) and Canada’s Fed Cup hero Eugenie Bouchard (to Bethanie Mattek-Sands). UNRELATED: I met Bethanie’s husband for the first time today. I love the Zac Brown Band. Just when I’m about to ask “Did anyone expect Bouchard to win anyway? The woman just got off a 14-hour flight from Montreal this morning!” – Italy’s Karin Knapp proved that it could be done. The hero in Italy’s Fed Cup win over Team USA in Cleveland proved that you could endure a 14-hour flight, drink a few pints of water, and deliver a first-round win in a WTA Premier Event. It was Knapp over Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia., 6-4, 6-1. Wow.
On center court here in Doha tomorrow: Na Li vs Magdalena Rybarikova, Petra Kvitova vs. Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki vs. Yanina Wickmayer, and Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sorana Cirstea…
My favorite-est tweet tonight – among those paying attention to Doha – came from the most entertaining tennis-follow in the Twittershpere, Hannah Wilks. Truth: I would hire her to conduct post-match interviews for each and every tournament…glass of wine in hand. In fact, it would be an honor to be her Hoda Kotb.
On-court interview says Ana's 2014 is looking like her 2008. 'That was nice, I'll take that,' she says, sounding a tad surprised.
— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) February 11, 2014
RESULTS: Qatar Total Open 2014. Day Two. Singles First Round.
-  A Ivanovic (SRB) d D Hantuchova (SVK) 75 10 Retired
- [WC] A Kleybanova (RUS) d  D Cibulkova (SVK) 55 Retired
-  S Stosur (AUS) d M Erakovic (NZL) 64 62
- B Mattek-Sands (USA) d  E Bouchard (CAN) 75 61
- L Safarova (CZE) d  K Flipkens (BEL) 57 64 64
- M Rybarikova (SVK) d F Schiavone (ITA) 75 46 76(3)
- S Zhang (CHN) d [Q] M Zanevska (UKR) 63 62
- K Zakopalova (CZE) d E Svitolina (UKR) 62 64
- K Pliskova (CZE) d [WC] C Buyukakcay (TUR) 63 63
- S Voegele (SUI) d A Cornet (FRA) 76(6) 75
- K Knapp (ITA) d C Garcia (FRA) 64 61
- K Kanepi (EST) d V Lepchenko (USA) 63 64
- M Niculescu (ROU) d [WC] F Al Nabhani (OMA) 61 60
- Y Wickmayer (BEL) d A Petkovic (GER) 64 64
- J Cepelova (SVK) d K Mladenovic (FRA) 64 76(5)
- A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d [LL] T Majeric (SLO) 57 62 63
- [Q] M Lucic-Baroni (CRO) d Y Meusburger (AUT) 46 62 63
- S Cirstea (ROU) d [Q] A Kudryavtseva (RUS) 26 61 75
RESULTS: Qatar Total Open 2014. Day One. Doubles First Round.
-  R Kops-Jones (USA) / A Spears (USA) d M Barthel (GER) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) 64 76(5)
-  A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) / N Petrova (RUS) d [WC] Y Beygelzimer (UKR) / O Savchuk (UKR) 36 64 10-5
- L Raymond (USA) / S Zhang (CHN) d J Husarova (SVK) / A Rosolska (POL) 62 63
- H Chan (TPE) / L Huber (USA) d S Klemenschits (AUT) / I Olaru (ROU) 62 63
WEDNESDAY: Qatar Total Open 2014. Day Three. Singles Second Round.
-  N Li (CHN) vs M Rybarikova (SVK)
-  A Radwanska (POL) vs S Cirstea (ROU)
-  P Kvitova (CZE) vs V Williams (USA)
-  S Errani (ITA) vs [Q] S Hsieh (TPE)
-  J Jankovic (SRB) vs K Knapp (ITA)
-  A Kerber (GER) vs K Pliskova (CZE)
-  S Halep (ROU) vs K Kanepi (EST)
-  C Wozniacki (DEN) vs Y Wickmayer (BEL)
-  A Ivanovic (SRB) vs K Zakopalova (CZE)
-  S Stosur (AUS) vs J Cepelova (SVK)
- B Mattek-Sands (USA) vs M Niculescu (ROU)
- S Peng (CHN) vs L Safarova (CZE)
- A Beck (GER) vs [Q] T Pironkova (BUL)
- A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [Q] M Lucic-Baroni (CRO)
- S Zhang (CHN) vs [Q] P Cetkovska (CZE)
- [WC] A Kleybanova (RUS) vs S Voegele (SUI)
WEDNESDAY: Qatar Total Open 2014. Day Three. Doubles First Round:
-  A Hlavackova (CZE) / L Safarova (CZE) vs A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Rodionova (AUS)
-  K Mladenovic (FRA) / F Pennetta (ITA) vs M Niculescu (ROU) / K Zakopalova (CZE)
- D Jurak (CRO) / A Klepac (SLO) vs [WC] K Flipkens (BEL) / F Schiavone (ITA)
- M Erakovic (NZL) / P Martic (CRO) vs A Groenefeld (GER) / M Lucic-Baroni (CRO)
- K Barrois (GER) / L Thorpe (FRA) vs C Garcia (FRA) / O Kalashnikova (GEO)