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Garbine Muguruza vs Sorana Cirstea Qatar Total Open tennis live: Muguruza looks for first back-to-back wins of 2018 in Doha

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 14 Feb 2018
  • Garbine Muguruza faces Sorana Cirstea for a place in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open
  • Muguruza vs Cirstea Qatar Total Open tennis is live from Doha on Thursday at 2pm local/11am GMT
Garbine Muguruza (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

World no. 4 Garbine Muguruza faces Romania’s Sorana Cirstea for a place in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open in Doha on Thursday. 

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza aims to win back-to-back matches for the first time this year as she takes on hard-hitting Sorana Cirstea in the third round of the Qatar Total Open.

Muguruza made a stuttering start to the 2018 season in January, when she retired in her first match against Aleksandra Krunic at the Brisbane International due to cramping and then gave Daria Gavrilova a walkover at the Apia International Sydney after beating Kiki Bertens. With so little match practice and health problems in the run-up to the Australian Open, she was ripe for an early upset and that’s exactly what she suffered as she went out in meek straight sets at the hands of an in-form Su-Wei Hsieh. 

Understandably, after such a frustrating January, Muguruza stressed how much she needs simply to be competitive during this Middle East swing to get some rhythm ahead of Indian Wells and Miami.

‘I'm not looking to feel comfortable in the court,’ Muguruza said after beating Duan Ying-Ying to reach the third round. ‘I'm just looking to compete and to have matches and to play the top girls also and just to be in the competition. Doesn't matter the feeling or the result, but I want to feel that I'm competing and I'm healthy, and I think that's really enough.’

A quarterfinalist at the Qatar Total Open on her second appearance in 2016, Muguruza fell victim to a third-round upset at the hands of Zhang Shuai in windy, damp, cold conditions on an outside court 12 months ago and will be very eager to avoid a similar fate in 2017.

The fourth seed made a bright start to her campaign, however, with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the tall, hard-hitting but erratic Duan Ying-Ying – although she had a little trouble closing it out after racing to a 6-3, 5-1 lead; it eventually took her seven unconverted match points before she sealed the win at the eighth opportunity.

‘It's been a while since I am not competing, and I played her actually recently in the US Open, and we had a tough match, and today was quite similar, especially at the end,’ Muguruza said afterwards. 

‘It was very interesting. She was playing better, and took me a lot of match points, but it was just an exciting end.’

Although Muguruza’s 2017 season continued some real highs – winning Wimbledon, and claiming the world no. 1 ranking for the first time after triumphing at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati – the first six months of it left a bit to be desired and the Spanish player’s undeniable lack of consistency has certainly contributed to what feels like a bit of a meagre haul of only three WTA Tour titles for her career (although having made three major finals and won two of them is enviable). What she does have going for her this week, and in coming weeks, is the presence of compatriot Conchita Martinez in her supporters’ box. Although Sam Sumyk remains Muguruza’s official coach, Martinez stepped in to guide Muguruza during Wimbledon last year when Sumyk was absent and it clearly went well – enough to inspire Muguruza to add Martinez to the team on a trial basis, starting in Doha and through to Miami.

The next test for Muguruza, and for her fledgling partnership with Martinez, is a third-round clash with Sorana Cirstea in Doha on Thursday.

A fearsome striker of the ball whose career has been plagued by injuries, most notably a shoulder problem that placed her tennis life in jeopardy and forced her to remodel her serve, Romania’s Cirstea was ranked as high as world no. 21 and a French Open quarterfinalist in 2009 but dropped well out of the top 200 after an injury-plagued 2015 and has been working her way back ever since. Now up to world no. 38 after some great results in 2017, including a fourth-round finish at the Australian Open and quarterfinal appearances at Premier Mandatories in Madrid and Beijing, Cirstea has reached the second rounds of the Brisbane International and the Australian Open in 2018 so far, although she lost in the first rounds of Hobart (to Heather Watson) and St Petersburg (to Lucie Safarova).

Cirstea suited up for Romania’s World Group II tie against Canada last weekend and although she only played one match, set the tone for a Romanian victory with her 6-2, 6-2 victory over Carol Zhao. Headed to Doha, where she has lost in the second round on three previous appearances, she’s done something Muguruza hasn’t managed so far in 2018 – winning back-to-back matches, starting with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari before scoring an impressive victory over the very in-form Elise Mertens 7-5, 6-4.

Muguruza hasn’t had too much trouble with Cirstea in the past, winning both their previous encounters in straight sets at the Australian Open in 2017 and Wimbledon later the same year. But on both those occasions she was playing with a lot more rhythm and confidence than she is currently enjoying. Cirstea is a decent match-up for Muguruza because she isn’t going to force Muguruza to do too many things the Spanish player finds uncomfortable – it’s a fairly straightforward clash of power vs power, and Muguruza is better at moving forward and has more margin built into her game – so it would have to be a poor performance from the world no. 4, and a great performance from the Romanian, to stop Muguruza reaching the Qatar Total Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

Muguruza vs Cirstea Qatar Total Open tennis is live from Doha on Thursday at 2pm local/11am GMT

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Garbine Muguruza vs Sorana Cirstea Qatar Total Open tennis live: Muguruza looks for first back-to-back wins of 2018 in Doha

Garbine Muguruza is searching for rhythm after a stuttering start to the year but has never lost a set to third-round opponent Sorana Cirstea: WTA Qatar Total Open tennis live from Doha

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