Padusa leads after Towson, Mertens leads with Kvitova’s retirement

Number 3 seed Paula Padusa eliminated the threat of teenage rookie Clara Towson 6-1 6-2 in just 69 minutes to reach the third round of the Qatar Total Energy Open. Meanwhile, the battle of ex-champions saw 2019 winner Elise Mertens advance as defending champion Petra Kvitova retired 7-5, 1-2 with a left wrist injury.

Badosa’s clash with Tauson was one of Day 3’s picks on paper. Their only previous encounter was nearly 12 months ago in Lyon – Towson’s second major draw at the WTA level and a surprise slam dunk for the Dane, who won it all in the playoffs with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Padusa in the semifinals.

Neither player was ranked in the top 70 at the time, but last year saw both players move up the rankings to reach career heights this week. World number 33 Towson already has wins over Anett Kontaveit and Belinda Bencic this year, while Padusa has risen to world number 4 after picking up titles in Belgrade, Indian Wells and Sydney.

Padusa’s performance declined in the Middle East after the Spaniard suffered a first-round defeat last week in Dubai against Elena Gabriella Ross, while Tosun was seeking a second successive victory after beating Bencic in the first round. But at the event, Padusa asserted her authority with an emphatic performance.

Match keys: Padusa played a tactically clever match, backed by impenetrable first serve numbers. The 24-year-old fired nine aces and only lost three points behind her first delivery.

At rallies, Tauson’s movement was targeted to maintain her opponent’s balance. The Badosa pattern was particularly effective at repeatedly dragging Towson out using crossed backhand strokes, a tactic that always forced the teen to turn to mischievous or wrong slides.

In total, Badosa has 20 wins for 17 unforced errors. Tauson, more annoyed by the harsh conditions, made 25 unforced errors for the 14 winners. The 19-year-old was also unable to risk the few opportunities that came her way. A dead netting rope gave her a rare opportunity to serve Padusa 4-0 in the first set, and she got a similar chance after Padusa’s double fault while introducing the match.

But Padusa showed more focus to save all four break points she faced, and judged the first point of the match in an appropriate fashion: a heavy backhand on the cross court that pulled another slice from Tauson.

Mertens advances with Kvitova’s retirement

16-seeded Mertens’ showdown with 2019 champion Kvitova pitted the winner in 2018 and 2021, and there wasn’t much to separate the pair in the first set which was a tight competition. There were seven total breaks, momentum was swaying between both of them as their figures swayed in the wind.

Mertens, who used a superbly high-impact forehand to disrupt Kvitova’s rhythm, was unable to serve the set at 5-4 after making back-to-back double faults, but she made no mistake on her second chance.

Kvitova kept 2-1 in the second set when the Czech called up the coach and chose to retire. No. 4 seed Mertens will face Anett Kontaveit, who beat her 3-1 head-to-head, including her last three matches dating back to 2018.