Barty sets up Qatar semifinal clash with Kvitova

World No. 1 and Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty set up a ninth career meeting with two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Open on Thursday.

DOHA — World No. 1 and Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty set up a ninth career meeting with two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Open on Thursday.

Barty saw off Spain's Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2 in her quarterfinal in windy and chilly conditions in Doha.

"I felt like I started exceptionally well and I was able to get the ball kind of in my areas a lot more," said the Australian top seed.

"Then in the second set Garbine was able to shift her court position and take a few more risks, put me on the back foot. It was frustrating, I felt like I wasn't doing a lot wrong but I wasn't making the most of my opportunities and wasn't getting opportunities.

"So I was happy to be able to start the third set well."

Barty has won her last three meetings with Kvitova, including the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last month.

Kvitova, the 2018 Qatar champion, trailed Tunisia's Ons Jabeur by a break in the second set and saved two set points before securing a grueling 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/4) win after one hour and 44 minutes.

"I'm glad how I was able to manage those tie-breaks for sure," said the Czech left-hander.

"So I'm really glad that I improved something. It was difficult with the crowd as well, with the wind, different conditions today, for sure. So I'm really glad that with very talented player as she is, with the great touch, I was able to play a good game."

In the other sem-final, evergreen Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova will face Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Two-time major winner Kuznetsova beat Swiss fourth seed Belinda Bencic 6-4, 6-4 while ninth-seeded Sabalenka came from behind to knock out China's Zheng Saisai 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.

Clijsters to continue

comeback at Indian Wells


Former world number one Kim Clijsters will continue her WTA comeback at Indian Wells in March after receiving a wild card Thursday into the elite hard court tournament in the California desert.

Belgium's Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam champion, had been out of the game for seven years before playing the first match of her return in Dubai, where she lost to Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza in the opening round.

She was scheduled to play in Monterrey, Mexico, before arriving at Indian Wells, where she won the title in 2003 and 2005.

Clijsters last played Indian Wells in 2011.

Clijsters, 36, is embarking on her second comeback. She retired in 2007 to marry and have her first child, returning in 2009 and going on to win three of her four Grand Slam titles.

She retired again after the 2012 US Open, but said in Dubai that she had felt "for a little while" that she might like to launch another comeback.

"Once in a while that feeling would go away when I was home with the (three) kids," she said. "A couple times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger."

Eventually, Clijsters said, her husband counseled her to go for it.

"He was like, 'Stop worrying about why and ask yourself why not,'" she said. — AFP