Through to her third Qatar Total Open final in the last four years, Petra Kvitova will attempt to defeat the red-hot Garbiñe Muguruza for a fifth consecutive time in a rematch of an awesome 2018 final.
Aiming to win her first title since 2019 Sydney, Kvitova will face an extremely well-rested Spaniard, who advanced to the final after Victoria Azarenka unsurprisingly withdrew due to a back injury she sustained on Thursday.
It’s tough to say why Kvitova has enjoyed so much success against the former world No. 1, but it seems her marked advantage on serve has been one key difference maker in her last four wins dating back to the 2016 Stuttgart quarterfinals. In those victories, Kvitova hit 18 aces compared to just nine for Muguruza, who also threw in far too many (19 total) double faults.
But a lot can happen in three years, and Muguruza is playing unquestionably better tennis so far in 2021 than in years past. Her only losses this year have come to stellar talents in Maria Sakkari at Abu Dhabi, Ashleigh Barty at the Yarra Valley Classic, and Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open. In her three matches this week, Muguruza has only double faulted four times.
You have to pick your poison against Kvitova, but the safest option is to take away her lefty-slider serve, arguably the best the women’s game has seen since Martina Navratilova. This leaves the T-serve open, but that’s fine, you can’t have her do this all match.
Even when you successfully defend the slice-out-wide, Kvitova can still pull off shots like this.
For Muguruza to turn the tide, she’ll need to be the aggressor throughout. This is much easier said than done against a player with as many weapons as the Czech, but after four straight losses, it’s probably time to take some necessary risks. Here, Muguruza gains control with her backhand return, and never lets go.
Your guess is as good as anyone's in this sixth encounter between two of the game’s great champions, but after throttling Sakkari in the quarterfinals, it seems Muguruza has revenge on her mind, and Saturday’s final is a perfect opportunity to exact some in a significant way.
The Pick: Garbine Muguruza