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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Simona Halep

Simona Halep stormed past Ekaterina Makarova, 6-3, 6-0, in her Qatar Total Open opener.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Confessing her cranky foot issue isn’t ideal, Simona Halep made an impeccable return to tournament tennis.

Debuting her new Nike apparel, the second-ranked Halep showed familiar precision and a bit of injury-induced aggression dispatching Ekaterina Makarova, 6-3, 6-0.

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World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki outclassed Carina Witthoeft, 6-2, 6-0, in 57 minutes scoring her WTA-best 13th victory of the season.

The Australian Open champion advanced to a round of 16 meeting with either 14th-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova or Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu, who knocked off former No. 1 Maria Sharapova in her opener.

Playing her first match since a pulsating loss to Wozniacki in last month’s Australian Open final, Halep was quick off the mark, moved fluidly and kept the lanky Russia unsettled avenging a Washington, DC loss to Makarova last summer.

The 2014 Doha champion played sharp angles and struck accurate drives on the move running the former world No. 8 out of the match.

Halep said after she still “felt a little bit the pain” from the injury she suffered en route to the Melbourne championship match, but believes she’s close to feeling fully fit.

“Not really perfect, but it’s close to being perfect,” Halep said. “I have to be confident it’s going to be okay in the next round and the next matches. I will keep working.”

Halep, who did not play in Romania's Fed Cup tie last weekend, said her foot has bothered her more than the strained ankle she suffered in Melbourne.

“Ankle is okay. The foot is still painful,” said Halep, who faces 13th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova tomorrow. "That's why I just tried to finish the points quick. But I didn't want to think about it too much. I think I played great tennis today. Everything was okay, not perfect, but okay. 

The three-time Grand Slam finalist said she expects to play tomorrow. 

“For sure, yeah. And I will try to finish the match," Halep told the media in Doha. “I started already to talk too much about this injury, it’s just a problem with my foot. The doctor said that nothing can happen like worse to break something.

“But still when I will feel stronger pain, I think I will just think—I will double think about it and I will take the best decision.”

The 26-year-old Romanian, who opened the season sweeping her 16th singles title and first doubles crown in Shenzhen, played the first month of the season in a plain red outfit she bought online from a Chinese seamstress after her adidas apparel pact expired at the end of 2017. The new Nike contract reportedly pays her $2 million annually and put in in a pack of pale-pink clad Swoosh winners today.

Petra Kvitova
Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Petra Kvitova scored her ninth straight win subduing Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4.

“I’m very proud of myself that I won it because I don’t know how,” Kvitova told the media afterward. “The first set took like an hour and something. I had my chances in everything and then I won in three. That was pretty good for me. I didn’t have this kind of match pretty long when I lost 7-6 and then won in the end so I have to take positively.”

Fresh off her run to her 21st career title indoors in St. Petersburg, Kvitova has made a smooth transition to outdoor conditions.

The two-time Wimbledon champion snapped a three-match losing streak to Radwanska, taking a 7-5 lead in their head-to-head series.

Kvitova will play Elina Svitolina for a quarterfinal spot.

Elina Svitolina
Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

The third-ranked Ukrainian overwhelmed Marketa Vondrousova, 6-2, 6-4, to reach the Doha round of 16 for the first time in four appearances.

The 27-year-old Kvitova has dominated Svitolina, winning six of their seven meetings, including sweeping 12 of the last 13 sets they’ve played since Svitolina won their first meeting at the 2014 Cincinnati tournament.

Kvitova knows she will be facing a much stronger Svitolina in this rematch. Svitolina carries a 10-1 record into the match, including claiming her 10th career title in Brisbane to start the season.

“It will be very difficult for sure,” Kvitova said. “We have played many times already, but it was like before. Both of us, we are in different times in our lives and our careers, so it will be interesting. I’m pretty looking forward to that match that’s probably why I came back to compete with those players.

"It will be a great match for me. We’ll see. I’m not the favorite in the match so I can just go there and play and whatever happens happens. I know that she is playing very well.”


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