The Qatar Total Open warmed up after a sedate opening with two seeded players biting the dust in the first round yesterday.
Sabine Lisicki, who along with a couple of other German women carry the unenviable burden of keeping German tennis alive on the world stage after a certain Steffi Graf bid adieu to the game in 1999, was sent packing by Angelique Kerber in three sets.
A little later, Slovakian glamour girl Daniela Hantuchova found herself facing by a little known but fiery baseliner from Romania who played as if she had nothing to lose. And as is often the case in such situations, it was the underdog that prevailed.
“This is one of the best wins of my career, she is a good player, but I am happy to go into the second round,” said Simona Halep, who is yet to win a WTA title, after putting paid to the 15th seeded Hantuchova’s bid to win her second tournament on the trot having defended her title in Pattaya last week.
“I felt pain in my leg but I kept going,” added the Romanian, who played with a heavily strapped thigh but never gave up as she clinched a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory in a marathon encounter lasting two hours and 32 minutes.
A brilliantly played tiebreaker proved the key after Halep broke Hantuchova in the 12th game to level 6-6 as the Romanian took a 3-0 lead before closing out the match when the Slovak found the net.
Earlier, Kerber, who won her first title in Paris last week, kept her fine recent run going by scalping Lisicki 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
It was the fourth time in as many matches that Kerber had got the better of her compatriot, who is ranked 14th in the world and considered one of the rising stars of the game.
“She is a great player who is also a good friend, so it’s not easy playing against her,” Kerber said after her 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
“We travel together and live in the same hotels, but I was focused on my game.”
Kerber’s form has been nothing short of spectacular recently, the German reaching at least the semis in six of the past 10 tournaments she played before beating Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the Paris final.
“I am really playing well, but this is a big tournament with many stars playing, but I will really try my best,” said the world’s 22-ranked player.
Lisicki admitted she had an “awful” day.
“Didn’t play well at all, I was unwell last week and was recovering. Also I made a lot of unforced errors. Played quite bad, awful in fact.”
She added that her focus this year was on the Olympics more than anything else.
“For me tennis was always a part of the Olympics, and I’m very much looking forward to the Olympics. I have many friends that have been there, and they’ve told me how nice it is.
“I’m sure it’s an extraordinary experience to just be there and play. For me, it’s even nicer that it’s going to be held in Wimbledon on grass, so it’s good.”
The top eight players in the field have been given first round byes and will see action only today, with world number one and top seed
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus taking on Germany’s Mona Barthel, and second seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark meeting the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova.
RESULTS & ORDER OF PLAY
1st round : Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) bt Klara Zakopalova (CZE) 6-4, 6-1, Lucie Safarova (CZE) bt Urszula Radwanska (POL) 6-3, 6-4, Sorana Cirstea (ROM) bt Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) 6-4, 6-1, Petra Cetkovska (CZE) bt Petra Martic (CRO) 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, Angelique Kerber (GER) bt Sabine Lisicki (GER x9) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, Julia Goerges (GER) bt Anastasiya Yakimova (BLR) 6-2, 6-2, Maria Kirilenko (RUS) bt Jie Zheng (CHN) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, Iveta Benesova (CZE) bt Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) bt Ayumi Morita (JPN) 6-2, 6-1 Simona Halep (ROM) bt Daniela Hantuchova (SVK x15) 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
ORDER OF PLAY - WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15 CENTER COURT start 3:30 pm
 A Radwanska (POL) vs [Q] A Keothavong (GBR)
L Safarova (CZE) vs  C Wozniacki (DEN)
 V Azarenka (BLR) vs M Barthel (GER)
Not Before 8:00pm
S Cirstea (ROU) vs  S Stosur (AUS)
COURT 1 start 3:30 pm
 V Zvonareva (RUS) vs M Niculescu (ROU)
Y Wickmayer (BEL) vs  F Schiavone (ITA)
 A Ivanovic (SRB) vs P Cetkovska (CZE)
A Klepac (SLO) / A Rosolska (POL) vs  M Kirilenko (RUS) / S Lisicki (GER) - After suitable rest
COURT 2 start 3:30 pm
 M Bartoli (FRA) vs A Medina Garrigues (ESP)
 S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs M Kirilenko (RUS)
K Pervak (KAZ) vs [Q] V Razzano (FRA) or [WC] O Jabeur (TUN)
COURT 3 start 3:30 pm
S Peer (ISR) vs  J Jankovic (SRB)
[Q] V Lepchenko (USA) vs  J Goerges (GER)
V Dushevina (RUS) / S Peer (ISR) vs  S Mirza (IND) / E Vesnina (RUS) - After suitable rest
COURT 4 start 3:30 pm
I Benesova (CZE) vs S Halep (ROU) or  D Hantuchova (SVK)
[Q] K Bondarenko (UKR) vs F Pennetta (ITA) or  D Cibulkova (SVK)
 D Hantuchova (SVK) / A Radwanska (POL) vs K Barrois (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER) - After suitable rest
COURT 6 start 3:30 pm
 N Grandin (RSA) / V Uhlirova (CZE) vs R Kops-Jones (USA) / A Spears (USA)
 S Peng (CHN) vs C Mchale (USA)
T Pironkova (BUL) vs A Kerber (GER)
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