Brady loses first match since Australian Open final

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DOHA, Qatar — Jennifer Brady lost her first match since the Australian Open final, falling to Anett Kontaveit 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the Qatar Open on Monday.

Brady, who lost to Naomi Osaka in her first major final just over a week ago, made 25 unforced errors against her Estonian opponent. Kontaveit had only nine unforced errors and didn’t face a single break point against the seventh-seeded American.

“I was expecting a very, very tough match but I’m very happy with the way I played and very pleased to get to the second round,” Kontaveit said.

Kontaveit will play three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the second round after the German beat wild card Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey 6-4, 6-2.

Garbine Muguruza beat Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 7-6 (4) to book a second-round match with last year’s Doha winner, Aryna Sabalenka, who had a first-round bye. “Good match ahead,” Muguruza said. “I’m excited to face these top players. I feel like every match is hard.”

Eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka needed six match points to win against Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3 in a first-round match between former Grand Slam champions. Azarenka will play Elena Rybakina or Laura Siegemund in the second round.

Kiki Bertens returned after five months off the tour and was beaten by Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2. It was the 11th-ranked Dutch player’s first match since a fourth-round loss at the French Open in October and a subsequent Achilles tendon operation. She missed the Australian Open to build up fitness.

Maria Sakkari beat Mayar Sherif 6-0, 6-3 in the first round.

U.S. player Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the Doha Open on Monday after injuring her ankle in a fall. The 2019 French Open semifinalist missed the Australian Open because she was in quarantine after a positive coronavirus test before her scheduled charter flight.

Linette keeps getting better; into Australian Open semis

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.

Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.

A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.

“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”

Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.

Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”

The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.

Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.

The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.

Rybakina rules in Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.

In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.

Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.

“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”

Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.