Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka will square off for the Doha title on Saturday, with both players seeking their first titles of the season.
Kvitova vs Sabalenka is live from Dubai on Saturday, 29 February from 6:00pm local time/ 3:00pm GMT
Kvitova is attempting to win the Doha title for a second time, following her initial success in 2018. The Czech is on a 10-match winning streak in Doha, having gone all the way in 2018, and missed the tournament last season.
Her road to the 2020 final has been a very tough one, involving three-set victories over Carla Suarez Navarro, Jelena Ostapenko and world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty, and a hard-fought 7-6 7-6 victory over Ons Jabeur in the quarter finals.
The two-time major winner had lost her last four matches against semi-final opponent, Barty, but she snapped that streak with a quality 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory over the Australian on Friday. The left-hander emerged on the right end of a three-break sequence to open the match, and maintained that advantage throughout the first set. Barty responded in emphatic fashion to take the second set, but Kvitova edged a tight third set with a solitary break of serve, coming through an absorbing contest after nearly two hours.
“I pushed myself a lot to go deeper to the court, not to flying back on the Qatar sign,” Kvitova said after the match. “I tried that she couldn’t have put me away from the baseline that much, so I took time from her and she couldn’t do that much with her forehand”.
“That was kind of the key, to try near by the baseline and just play from there and still pushing to the court…I did have chances in the last meetings with her as well, but today I was just maybe…braver and that’s how it is.”
Kvitova is into her 37th career final, and will attempt to claim her 28th title when she faces Sabalenka on Saturday.
“I always bring something else in the finals and I just love playing finals”, said Kvitova, when asked about her stellar record in finals. “That’s why I’m playing tennis, for those trophies, and playing a final is something like that you are very close to have the title, but it’s still very far”.
“It’s something bigger than I think, I think it’s just very close there and I just put everything what I have left.”
The world No. 11 had made a steady start to the 2020 season, opening with a semi-final in Brisbane, and reaching quarter finals at the Australian Open and St. Petersburg, where she had to withdraw with illness, but she’s made a fine comeback in Doha, where she’s advanced to her first final since April 2019 (Stuttgart).
Can she finish it off by taking down Sabalenka on Saturday?
Sabalenka was in fine form in her semi-final against two-time Doha finalist, Svetlana Kuznetsova, earning a 6-4 6-3 victory to move into her first final of the season.
The Belarusian served at 75% and won 72% of points on her first serve, converting four of five break points to secure a spot in her 10th career final. She’s also got a decent record in finals, winning five of the previous nine, three of which came last season in Shenzhen, Wuhan and Zhuhai.
Sabalenka had a mixed start to the 2020 season, reaching the semi-finals in Adelaide and quarter finals in Dubai, but also suffering a second round exit in her title defence in Shenzhen and an opening round loss to Carla Suarez Navarro at the Australian Open, but she’s put together four consecutive wins for the first time this season in Doha, beating Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Saisai Zheng and Kuznetsova to make the final in her debut appearance at the tournament.
“I’m really happy to be in the final here, especially because it’s my first time here,” she said. “It’s really nice and I’m really happy with the level I’m playing right now and well, we’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow, but for sure I will bring everything I have.”
Kvitova and Sabalenka are two of the most aggressive players on the tour, and as is so often the case, whoever finds the better balance between winners and errors will likely come out victorious. Kvitova holds a 2-1 lead over the Belarusian in their head-to-head meetings, with all three previous encounters staged on hard courts.
“This will be totally different opponent for me tomorrow, so I’m looking forward for that for sure”, Kvitova said of the final. “Enough of the slices from Ash today, so I’m glad I do have a little bit different opponent!”
“It will be a lot of serve and return. It’s the first two shots which is going to decide the match, for sure. And we played a few times already, she beat me, I beat her. And yeah, we’ll see, it’s similar game, so who knows who is going to be lucky.”
This one can absolutely drift either way, but I’ll lean slightly towards Kvitova here. Her 10-match winning streak in Doha has got to count for something, and she will be buoyed by that huge win over Barty on Friday!