Top seeds Svitolina and Pliskova upset at Qatar Open

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DOHA, Qatar — The top two seeded players at the Qatar Open were eliminated in the quarterfinals as Victoria Azarenka played through pain to win against Elina Svitolina and Jessica Pegula defeated Karolina Pliskova.

Azarenka held off a late comeback from top-seeded Svitolina, her doubles partner this week, to seal a 6-2, 6-4 win on her third match point.

Azarenka managed an apparent lower back problem with stretches and help from a physiotherapist.

“In the warmup, I just felt a very sharp pain and I was very worried,” she said. “I tried my best. I really tried to just focus on what I could do and not think about anything else.”

The Belarusian will play Garbine Muguruza, who ousted Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-1. Muguruza last reached the Doha final in 2018, losing to Petra Kvitova. Sakkari landed only 57% of first serves to 82% for Muguruza, and was broken five times.

Pegula continued her blistering start to 2021 by beating second-seeded Pliskova 6-3, 6-1, breaking the big-hitting Czech player’s serve five times.

That took Pegula to a 12-3 record this year, including qualifying matches, in a run which has already lifted the U.S. player into the top 50 for the first time after reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Her reward for beating Pliskova is a semifinal against fourth-seeded Kvitova, who ousted Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a match with 16 breaks of serve.

“It was a kind of a rollercoaster,” Kvitova said.

Nishioka beats Shapovalov to win Korean Open

2022 US Open - Day 1
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SEOUL, South Korea – Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka claimed his second career title after beating fourth seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 7-6 (5) to win the Korean Open.

The 27-year-old Japanese, who beat top seed and world No.2 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, was impressive in defense and his counter-punching style eventually wore down his higher ranked opponent in just under two hours at the Seoul Olympic Park Tennis Center.

The unseeded Nishioka, appearing in his second championship match this year after reaching the Washington final in August, started the brighter and found his rhythm early to claim the first set.

The second set saw momentum change as Shapavolov found his range from the backcourt to take a 3-1 lead. But Nishioka rallied to take the set into a tiebreak where he held firm to win his first tournament since his maiden title at the Shenzen Open in 2018 – where he also beat Shapovalov in their only previous meeting.

The ATP Tour returned to Seoul for the first time since 1996 after the city was awarded a single-year license to stage the Korean Open.

Mayar Sherif becomes first Egyptian to win WTA Tour event

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PARMA, Italy — Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian to win a WTA Tour event by beating top-seeded Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-3 at the Parma Ladies Open.

Besides earning her first career title, Sherif also notched her first win over a top-10 opponent.

Along with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals this year, Sherif is raising the profile of tennis in North Africa.

The 74th-ranked Sherif actually had to win two matches on Saturday, first overcoming sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals, which were postponed a day due to rain.

The seventh-ranked Sakkari beat Danka Kovinic 7-5, 6-2 in her semifinal earlier Saturday.