Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus had to stage an incredible fightback in her opening match at the Qatar Open, outlasting Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka will have her first meeting with Madison Brengle of the United States in the second round. Brengle defeated Turkish wildcard Ipek Oz on Sunday, 7-5, 6-3.
No.12 seed Azarenka, winner of back-to-back Doha titles in 2012 and 2013, was down 0-4 in the third set and saved a match point at 5-4 in the decider before prevailing after 2 hours and 48 minutes of intense tennis.
Azarenka has now improved her stellar career win-loss record in Doha to 18-2, as she aims to become the first three-time Doha champion.
“Wins like this are sometimes more important than a clean match because you find a way when you’re not playing well,” Azarenka said on court, after the match.
“You just try to find a window, try to find an opportunity. I feel like I didn’t play really well today, but I was fighting for everything. I didn’t really look that the score was down. I know that I have to keep going, I will find my opportunity, and I’m really glad I stuck with it here.”
Putintseva is still seeking her first main-draw win of the season after a first-round defeat at the Australian Open and a loss to Marketa Vondrousova in Dubai qualifying.