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Top seeds Svitolina and Pliskova upset at Qatar Open

Qatar Total Open 2021 - Day Four

DOHA, QATAR - MARCH 04: Karolina Pliskova of The Czech Republic stretches to play a backhand in her Quarter-Final singles match against Jessica Pegula of The United States during Day Four of the Qatar Total Open 2021 at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on March 04, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)

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DOHA, Qatar -- The top two seeded players at the Qatar Open were eliminated in the quarterfinals as Victoria Azarenka played through pain to win against Elina Svitolina and Jessica Pegula defeated Karolina Pliskova.

Azarenka held off a late comeback from top-seeded Svitolina, her doubles partner this week, to seal a 6-2, 6-4 win on her third match point.

Azarenka managed an apparent lower back problem with stretches and help from a physiotherapist.

“In the warmup, I just felt a very sharp pain and I was very worried,” she said. “I tried my best. I really tried to just focus on what I could do and not think about anything else.”

The Belarusian will play Garbine Muguruza, who ousted Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-1. Muguruza last reached the Doha final in 2018, losing to Petra Kvitova. Sakkari landed only 57% of first serves to 82% for Muguruza, and was broken five times.

Pegula continued her blistering start to 2021 by beating second-seeded Pliskova 6-3, 6-1, breaking the big-hitting Czech player’s serve five times.

That took Pegula to a 12-3 record this year, including qualifying matches, in a run which has already lifted the U.S. player into the top 50 for the first time after reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Her reward for beating Pliskova is a semifinal against fourth-seeded Kvitova, who ousted Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a match with 16 breaks of serve.

“It was a kind of a rollercoaster,” Kvitova said.