An interview with Sara Errani after her win in the semifinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
DOHA, Qatar – Former World No.5 Eugenie Bouchard recovered from a 2-5 final set deficit and later from match point down to dispatch resurgent Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(4) in the first round of the Qatar Total Open.
“I wanted to make it exciting for everyone,” Bouchard joked during her on-court interview when asked about the dramatic win that took nearly two-and-half hours.
The Canadian was playing her first tournament since the Australian Open – where she lost to eventual semifinalist Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round – and was very nearly out of it against Sevastova, a former World No.36 who returned to tennis at the start of 2015 following a brief retirement.
“It was all kind of a blur, really. I was just in the moment, and just kept trying to fight.
“It’s been a while since I played a match and I didn’t want to leave Doha that soon, so I’m glad to stay her another couple of days.”
Bouchard has seen her ranking fall to No.61 due to a combination of injuries and inconsistencies, but the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up had a bright start to 2016 when she reached the final of the Hobart International, and showed off some of her signature aggression against Sevastova, hitting 40 winners to 49 unforced errors. Sevastova hit fewer errors at 36, but 11 fewer winners.
“I’m just so grateful to be back on tour after a rough end of last season. I’m just so happy to be doing what I love, to be playing in front of you guys, to enjoy this life.
“I love it; I love my job, so that’s the main thing and I just want to keep getting better.”
Bouchard next plays the winner of Denisa Allertova and No.15 seed Elina Svitolina, who recently hired former No.1 Justine Henin as a coaching consultant and made the semis at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships just last week. The Canadian could face reigning Australian Open champion and top seed Angelique Kerber should both advance to the third round.
Earlier in the day, the WTA’s horde of young Russians continued to impress in their first round matches; Daria Kasatkina survived a second set hiccup to defeat qualifier Qiang Wang – who took out ASB Classic champion Sloane Stephens in Melbourne – 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
Kasatkina’s compatriot Margarita Gasparyan was even more emphatic against No.10 seed Karolina Pliskova, dropping just two games in a 6-1, 6-1 win that took just under 50 minutes.
“I’m so happy that I won today,” she said during her on-court interview, this her first win over a Top 15 player.
“I’ve played Serena twice in Wimbledon and in Australia; it was amazing. I feel comfortable now playing in the big moments. It’s a nice atmosphere and I’m enjoying getting to play here.”
Fellow youngsters Jelena Ostapenko and Donna Vekic were also straight set winners in Doha, while veteran Kateryna Bondarenko – another comeback kid who returned to tennis 18 months ago after becoming a mother – defeated Annika Beck in straight sets, as well.
In the last match of the day, a pair of former Top 10 players in Ekaterina Makarova and Andrea Petkovic faced off in the first round; the German emerged victorious in just over an hour, 6-3, 6-2.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Former World No.4 and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone reached her first WTA final since 2013 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Petra Martic.
Playing in her first WTA semifinal in nearly 18 months (2014, Hong Kong), Schiavone put down four aces and won 84% of points behind her first serve against Martic, herself a former World No.42 who one made the second week of Roland Garros back in 2012.
It had been a difficult start to 2016 for Schiavone, who missed out on a 62nd consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearance when she fell in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.
“When I chose Rio, I chose it mainly because it was clay,” Schiavone said in her post-match press conference. “I remembered the conditions here being very difficult, so I trained as much as is possible for me to prepare myself on clay to be ready for the heat and the effort.
“Obviously when you come here, you try to prepare as much as you can, but you don’t think ‘I’m going there to win it,’ no, no. It’s a wonderful surprise; it’s been a long time since I’ve had this big a result, so I’m taking it as it comes.”
Schiavone next plays resurgent American Shelby Rogers. Playing her first WTA main draw since the Coupe Banque Nationale last fall, Rogers ended the excellent adventure of Sorana Cirstea, a former World No.21 who had amassed a 12-1 record heading into the semifinal by reaching back-to-back finals at two Challenger tournaments in Brazil.
“It feels amazing. I’ve had a really great week, played some good matches,” Rogers said in her post-match press conference. “I got a little momentum at the beginning, but this year has been good so far; I’ve already played a lot of matches, so that’s been a big help.
“Winning this many matches in a row and playing very well is definitely a confidence-builder, but I’ve also had to fight through some tough moments in those matches. Those are where I really get confidence from, so hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow and through the rest of the year.”
Rogers won, 6-4, 6-4, and will be playing Schiavone for the first time in what will be her second career WTA final (Schiavone’s 18th).
“Rogers is a player I don’t know very well,” Schiavone said. “But it’s going to be interesting. A final is really a 50-50 chance.”
In doubles, Veronica Cepede Royg and María Irigoyen captured the doubles final with a 6-1, 7-6(5) win over Tara Moore and Conny Perrin. For Paraguay’s Cepede Royg, the Rio Open is her first WTA title of any king, while Irigoyen won her only previous WTA title back in 2014, playing doubles in Rio with Irina-Camelia Begu.
“I want to thank my partner for the amazing week we had here in Rio,” Cepede Royg said after the match. “I’m really happy for winning my first WTA title in Rio.:
“This is such an enchanting place and the city is beautiful,” Irigoyen added. “I love coming here, people are really receptive and it was a special week.”