World number two Simona Halep won on her return to competitive action since losing the Australian Open final, beating Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets in the Qatar Open on Wednesday.
Halep eased through 6-3, 6-0 against the Russian in a second round match – she received a first round bye – but admitted afterwards she was still anxious about an ankle injury which has stopped her from playing since Melbourne. Also winning convincingly was the woman who defeated Halep in Melbourne, Caroline Wozniacki who blitzed Germany’s Carina Witthoeft, 6-2, 6-0 in just 57 minutes.
But it was Halep’s ankle which was receiving most attention afterwards. The Romanian said she would assess that injury match-by-match and admitted she would take the “best decision” for her health if the ankle worsened.
“Ankle is okay. The foot is still painful,” she said afterwards. Halep faces Latvian Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday and asked if she will definitely play, she responded: “For sure, yeah. And I will try to finish the match.
“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 injury also forced her out of Romania’s Fed Cup tie with Canada last weekend. Halep raced to a 5-1 lead in her first set before Makarova, the world number 36, showed some defiance by breaking the Romanian’s serve and threatening a comeback.
Halep, who hit 13 winners, then rallied and stormed through the second set without losing a game. The Romanian has the possibility of reclaiming the world’s top ranking from Wozniacki this week if she reaches at least the quarter-finals and goes one round further than the Dane.
But Wozniacki carried on the great form which saw her lift her first Grand Slam title last month, not giving Witthoeft a chance, and hitting 18 winners.
“I felt very comfortable out there today,” she said. “And the court suited me well. So I was pleased with the win.”
Wozniacki also has her own reasons for doing well in Doha. If she gets to the semi-final, she will become just the fourth player in history to pass $30 million in prize money. The high-quality field in the Gulf features nine of the top ten players in the world and several just outside those rankings.
With few shocks so far, the remaining few days in Doha could witness some heavyweight contests.
Kvitova scrapes through
Also through to the third round are world number 11, Britain’s Johanna Konta and a resurgent Petra Kvitova. Konta won 6-2, 6-2 against a former Qatar Open winner, Carla Suarez Navarro.
And Kvitova battled back from a set down to beat Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4. “I have no idea, first of all, how I turned it around. I felt pretty exhausted,” said the double Wimbledon champion.
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova – who beat Wozniacki in last year’s Doha final – beat France’s Alize Cornet, 6-2, 6-3. Angelique Kerber alos progressed and in one of the few shocks so far, Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu beat number six seed, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko 6-1, 6-3.
(With inputs from AFP)