Day one of the Qatar Total Open 2016 was a good day for qualifiers and wild cards…including Genie Bouchard. The concussion-recovering Canuck was granted a wild card in this year’s tournament, and though she needed a third-set tie-break to win it, she fought her way into the second round with a win over Latvian qualifier Anastasia Sevastova, who’s return to the game has been a remarkable one as well. From Anastasija’s pre-match bio:
THREE YEARS AGO, SHE RETIRED FROM THE SPORT…BUT RETURNED LAST JANURY WITH A FIERY DETERMINATION THAT’S CATAPULTED HER BACK INTO THE TOP-100. SHE WON FOUR OF HER FIRST FIVE TOURNAMENTS, PLAYED IN SIX FINALS, THEN REACHED THE SEMIFINALS OF THE WTA-LEVEL EVENT IN FLORIANOPOLIS.
[lightbox link=”http://andytayloronline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/QTO16-Day1-Cover.png” thumb=”http://andytayloronline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/QTO16-Day1-Cover-320×200.png” width=”320″ align=”right” title=”Winner. Genie Bouchard. 3rd-set TB.” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Winner. Genie Bouchard. 3rd-set TB.”]One other wild card (Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay) and two qualifiers (Katerina Bondarenko and Donna Vekic) also overcame their opponents on Monday.
Here on Center Court, the tournament’s first match saw Croatia’s Donna Vekic dominate Fatma Al Nabhani from Oman in just 50-minutes. In our conversation after the match, Donna acknowledged that playinging through qualifying gave her a seasoned, competitive edge over the wild card; and though she faces a much tougher test in the second round (#8-seed Carla Suarez Navarro), she always relishes the opportunity to take-on the sport’s elite. A win on Wednesday would mark Donna’s first win over a player ranked inside the top-11.
Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan then capitalized on a self-imploding, double-faulting Karolina Pliskova, who came into Doha after an epic Fed Cup performance. She carried the entire team on her back vs. Romania two weeks ago. While Petra Kvitova lost both of her singles rubbers, Karolina won both of hers – defeating Halep and Niculescu – then clinched the tie in the final rubber with partner Barbora Strycova…just as they did in the Fed Cup Final vs. Russia last November. Here in Doha, she simply wasn’t the same player. Double faults and unforced errors delivered only 2-games for the Czech in the entire match.
All credit to Margarita Gasparyan, though. She rose to the occasion, served well, showcased some brilliant shot-making with her one-handed backhand, and never took her foot off of Karolina’s neck. It was her first career win over a top-15 player. She was thrilled after the match, admitting in our interview that this was the first time she’d ever been asked to sign the camera lens. Too cute. Truth is, the woman’s on a tear. Last Sunday, she reached a career high ranking of #41 in the world…just a few weeks after reaching the 4th round of a Grand Slam for the first time. That was her second loss to Serena Williams (she first fell to Serena last June during 1st-round play at Wimbledon), but by simply playing the World #1, she’s gleaned buckets of confidence and uses that experience to crush any tinge of pre-match intimidation.
I completely missed the new two matches: Bouchard’s gutty win over Sevastova…and Andrea’s Petkovic 4th-career, routine win over Ekaterina Makarova. The Qatar Tennnis Federation invited me to host the Gala Dinner for the Qatar Total Open 2016, so we headed out after bringing Genie and Anastasija on the court.
A special thanks to GiGi Salmon and Guy McCrea for handling the on-court interviews for the reminder of the night. Day-2 fires up tomorrow afternoon, filling courts 1-4 and center court with the remaining first-round matches in the draw.
RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2016. Day One. 1st-Round Singles.
- M. Gasparyan (RUS) d  K. Pliskova (CZE) 61 61
- S. Zheng (CHN) d V. Lepchenko (USA) 62 76(6)
- [WC] E. Bouchard (CAN) d [Q] A. Sevastova (LAT) 57 63 76(4)
- J. Ostapenko (LAT) d Z. Diyas (KAZ) 61 63
- A. Petkovic (GER) d E. Makarova (RUS) 63 62
- [WC] C. Buyukakcay (TUR) d L. Hradecka (CZE) 64 67(5) 62
- D. Kasatkina (RUS) d [Q] Q. Wang (CHN) 61 26 63
- [Q] K. Bondarenko (UKR) d A. Beck (GER) 64 64
- [Q] D. Vekic (CRO) d [WC] F. Al Nabhani (OMA) 60 60
- Y. Putintseva (KAZ) d A. Schmiedlova (SVK) 62 64
RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2016. Day One. 1st-Round Doubles.
-  T. Babos (HUN) / J. Goerges (GER) d C. Liang (CHN) / Y. Wang (CHN) 63 64
- K. Jans-Ignacik (POL) / B. Krejcikova (CZE) d Groenefeld (GER) / Vandeweghe (USA) 64 64