Heather Watson claimed her first WTA Tour title in four years with a win over Leylah Fernandez in the Mexican Open final on Saturday.

The Brit overcame Canadian teenager Fernandez 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 6-1 in the decider of the WTA International event in Acapulco.

Watson's title was the fourth of her WTA career but first since winning the Monterrey Open in March 2016.

For Fernandez, 17, it ended a memorable run to her first WTA final, and it proved quite the battle against Watson.

Watson won the first four games before a tough second set during which both players had their chances.

After Watson saved four set points to deny Fernandez, the teenager incredibly saved five match points to force a decider.

Watson recovered from that disappointment by rolling out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, although she needed another five match points to seal her victory.

Aryna Sabalenka proved too good for Petra Kvitova in the final of the Qatar Open, winning 6-3 6-3 to claim her sixth WTA Tour title.

Kvitova won the tournament in 2018 and had beaten world number one Ash Barty in the last four, yet she was unable to secure the victory that would have moved her back into the world's top 10.

Sabalenka's powerful serving and brutal groundstrokes were the difference, while she saved all five break points she faced in one game during the second set.

The triumph, Sabalenka's second successive Premier 5 title after her victory at the WTA Elite Trophy in September, ensured the 21-year-old will move to 11 in the world rankings, ahead of Kvitova at 12.

Sabalenka had two break points in Kvitova's opening service game and though the two-time Wimbledon champion held, she fell 3-1 down when failing to win a point two games later.

It took Sabalenka just 29 minutes to forge ahead in the match, one of seven aces delivering the first set.

Kvitova had multiple chances to break in the fourth game of the second set but, in a game that lasted over 10 minutes, Sabalenka held firm before bending in a winner to break and go 4-3 up.

Sabalenka had three championship points and though Kvitova rallied to save all of those, two pieces of fortune via the net cord helped the Belarusian seal the win in one hour and 14 minutes.

"It's a special moment. It was an amazing week this week," Sabalenka said in her on-court interview.

"I was enjoying every second on the court."

Heather Watson is on track to win her first WTA title in four years after reaching the Mexican Open final.

Watson – the British seventh seed – overcame Wang Xiyu 6-4 7-6 (8-6) at the WTA International tournament in Acapulco on Friday.

Not since the 2016 Monterrey Open has Watson claimed a WTA trophy but the British number two moved a step closer to ending that drought.

Watson, who lost the Tianjin Open decider in October, will meet Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final.

Fernandez – contesting her maiden WTA semi-final – was too good for local wildcard Renata Zarazua 6-3 6-3.

Zarazua became the first Mexican woman to reach a WTA Tour semi-final since 1993 after triumphing in the quarter-finals, but she was no match for the 17-year-old.

Petra Kvitova came through a see-saw battle with Ashleigh Barty to progress to the final of the Qatar Open, where she will face Aryna Sabalenka.

World number one Barty had survived a three-set clash with Garbine Muguruza to reach the last four in Doha, but two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova proved too strong on Friday.

Barty appeared to have the momentum after levelling the match by taking the second set in comfortable fashion.

However, an engrossing third went the way of Kvitova, even if was far from straightforward.

A sliced Barty backhand into the net gave Kvitova a break in the fifth game of the decider, only for the Czech to surrender it straight back when she fired wide off the same wing.

Yet a blistering crosscourt backhand return earned Kvitova the advantage again and a place in the final was secured when Barty looped a forehand wide to seal a 6-4 2-6 6-4 win for the 2018 champion.

Sabalenka's victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova was more routine.

The 21-year-old is making her debut at the tournament, but youth triumphed over experience in comfortable fashion as she needed only an hour and 17 minutes to prevail 6-4 6-3.

It is now 10 career WTA singles finals for Sabalenka, who has lost two of her three meetings with Kvitova, her solitary win coming at the 2018 US Open.

Renata Zarazua became the first Mexican woman to reach a WTA Tour semi-final since 1993 after continuing her fairytale run at the Mexican Open.

Local wildcard Zarazua upstaged Tamara Zidansek 6-2 3-6 6-2 en route to the final four of the WTA International tournament in Acapulco on Thursday.

World number 270 Zarazua, 22, will face teenage qualifier Leylah Fernandez for a spot in the final.

Canadian 17-year-old Fernandez moved through to her maiden WTA semi-final after ousting fellow teen Anastasia Potapova 6-3 7-5.

Elsewhere, seventh seed Heather Watson prevailed 6-3 1-6 6-1 against American Christina McHale.

Next up for Watson is Wang Xiyu, who eased past sixth seed Zhu Lin 6-2 6-2.

Kim Clijsters will play at Indian Wells after it was confirmed the former world number one has been given a wild card.

The four-time grand slam champion is on the comeback trail after reversing her 2012 retirement last year.

Clijsters, 36, earlier this month was beaten in straight sets by Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Tennis Championships on her return to the court.

The Belgian is a two-time Indian Wells champion and is also set to play at Monterrey before heading to California.

It was also announced by tournament organisers on Thursday that both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been given wild cards to play doubles at Indian Wells.

World number one Djokovic is set to team up with Viktor Troicki after they were part of Serbia's ATP Cup-winning squad at the start of the year.

Nadal, second behind Djokovic in the singles rankings, will play with compatriot Marc Lopez, with whom he won gold at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Ash Barty survived a back-and-forth encounter against the in-form Garbine Muguruza to set up a date with familiar foe Petra Kvitova, who ended Ons Jabeur's run at the Qatar Open.

World number one Barty needed three sets to see off Australian Open finalist Muguruza in Doha, while Kvitova won a pair of tie-breaks in her quarter-final with Jabeur. 

Veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova earned a share of tournament history with an upset win over fourth seed Belinda Bencic.

The Russian now faces Aryna Sabalenka, who came from behind to defeat Saisai Zheng in the day's opening match.


BARTY OUT TO CONTINUE KVITOVA RUN

Barty endured a second-set dip in her 6-1 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 beating of Muguruza, who has reached at least the last eight in each of her five tournaments in 2020.

The Australian, playing at her first event since reaching the semis of her home slam in Melbourne, did not face a single break point in the opening set but was met with a much sterner test in the second.

Barty raced into a 5-2 lead in the decider, though, and fought back from 40-15 in the final game to set up a showdown with Kvitova, who she has beaten in their previous four meetings - including a straight-sets win at the Australian Open.

Kvitova, the 2018 champion, edged to a 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) win over Jabeur, who has enjoyed a stellar year thus far and became the first Arab woman to reach a major quarter-final in Melbourne.


MILESTONE FOR KUZNETSOVA 

Kuznetsova was in devastating form against Bencic, hitting 39 winners and just 15 unforced errors in a 6-4 6-4 triumph.

A runner-up in 2004 and 2007, Kuznetsova now has 19 match wins in Doha, which ties the record held by retired former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

"I have amazing memories," said Kuznetsova, who is in to her first Doha semi since 2007. 

"It was my first time when I beat Justine [Henin] here [in the 2004 semi-finals] and it was like I was a kid, I was 19. 

"I climbed from number 30-something to number 13 or number 14 and it was amazing. It was so long ago it was like another life, but it really happened to me - I didn't watch it in the movies."

Sabalenka will try to end Kuznetsova's run after a 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 defeat of Zheng.

Heather Watson moved into the Mexican Open quarter-finals, while teenager Leylah Fernandez continued her run on Wednesday.

Watson, the British seventh seed at the WTA International event, was too good for Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (7-2) 6-2.

Zhu Lin was the other seed to advance, getting past Katie Boulter 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 in one hour, 48 minutes.

Another seed fell in Nao Hibino, who was crushed by Canadian 17-year-old Fernandez 6-3 6-0 in just over an hour.

Renata Zarazua, Tamara Zidansek, Anastasia Potapova, Christina McHale and Wang Xiyu also moved into the last eight.

Ons Jabeur continued her fine start to 2020 with the biggest win of her career as she stunned third seed Karolina Pliskova at the Qatar Open.

The Tunisian has surged to a career-high ranking of 44 having made history by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

What it is rapidly developing into a breakthrough year saw another high point on Wednesday as she emerged victorious from a gruelling three-set battle with third seed Pliskova.

Kiki Bertens was another to suffer a surprise loss as Zheng Saisai came from a set down to see off the seventh seed.

Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka all progressed, while world number one Ashleigh Barty was one of two players to receive a walkover into the quarter-finals, where she will meet Garbine Muguruza.

JABEUR MAKES MORE HISTORY

It has already been an impressive year for Jabeur.

She added another achievement to an increasingly impressive CV by progressing to the last eight in Doha.

Having lost to Simona Halep in a third-set tie-break in Dubai, Jabeur made sure to finish the job against Pliskova, hitting 33 winners to prevail 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a thriller and knock out the 2017 champion.


ZHENG BATTLES BACK

Few would have predicted Bertens succumbing to Zheng considering she dropped just one set en route to the St. Petersburg Open title earlier this month.

There appeared little sign of a shock when Bertens took the first set, but Zheng superbly battled back to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win after two hours and 10 minutes.

Eighth seed Kvitova came through a frenetic contest with Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 5-7 6-1, while Bencic and Sabalenka earned straight-sets victories over Yulia Putintseva and Maria Sakkari.

MUGURUZA SETS UP BARTY CLASH

Though she was unable to overcome Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open final, Muguruza has been a player revitalised in 2020.

A clash with rising star Dayana Yastremska presented a significant hurdle, but she cleared it in relatively routine fashion.

Despite hitting only two winners, Muguruza capitalised on 29 unforced errors from Yastremska as the two-time grand slam champion wrapped up a 6-2 6-4 success.

Barty, whose meeting with Elena Rybakina was cancelled after the Kazakh withdrew with an abductor strain, is next for Muguruza. Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, progressed as Amanda Anisimova pulled out because of illness.

Maria Sharapova insists there will be no farewell tour after she announced her retirement from tennis, with the Russian stating Kobe Bryant's death proved pivotal in her decision to bow out.

Sharapova – a five-time grand slam champion – confirmed her retirement on Wednesday, having struggled with injuries in recent years, while she also served a 15-month ban for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

The 32-year-old, who finishes her career at 373 in the WTA rankings and with 36 singles titles to her name, won her first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2004, aged 17.

Despite being one of the biggest names in tennis, Sharapova dismissed any idea of prolonging her time on the court, meaning her last appearance will be the defeat to Donna Vekic in the Australian Open in January.

"I don't feel I need to go on the court for the entire world and every fan to know that this is my last time on the court," Sharapova said in an interview with the New York Times.

"Even when I was younger, it was not the way I wanted it to end. As I think you've seen throughout my career, my perseverance has been my greatest tool, my greatest strength.

"But I've started feeling like it was becoming a weakness, because the stubbornness that was keeping me going was keeping me going for wrong reasons."

Having decided she should soon call it a day while flying from Australia to Los Angeles following her defeat to Vekic, Sharapova added that the death of basketball icon Bryant – who she said had been an "incredible sounding board" for her during her career – on January 26 made her mind up.

"We were supposed to see each other like three days after the crash," Sharapova said.

"I think we all seem at times in our journey like larger than life because of what we do, but everyone at the core is incredibly fragile.

"And if anything it just opens up your eyes to what really matters in life, so that was a moment where I had a really good think about my future as well."

Sharapova acknowledged it is difficult to leave her tally of grand slam titles at five, yet she has no regrets over calling time on her career.

"Look, would I have loved to have a sixth, a seventh, an eighth Grand Slam trophy?" she added. "That number sounds better, but I could have had zero, and I got myself to a pretty incredible place."

Novak Djokovic paid tribute to "inspirational" Maria Sharapova after the five-time grand slam champion retired from tennis on Wednesday.

Sharapova has struggled with injuries in recent years, while she also served a 15-month ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

The Russian, who was a major winner aged 17 at Wimbledon in 2004, wrote in Vogue and Vanity Fair: "I'm new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis — I'm saying goodbye."

And ATP Tour great Djokovic, speaking on court after his straight-sets defeat of Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Dubai Tennis Championships, prompted a round of applause in honour of Sharapova after learning of her retirement.

"I just heard the news right now, and I would like everyone to give her a big round of applause for everything she has done in her career," he said. "She deserves it definitely.

"She is a great fighter, as dedicated as someone can really be in our sport.

"The willpower and the willingness to overcome all the obstacles that she had - especially in the last five or six years with the injuries and surgeries, trying to come back to the court and play on her desired level - it's truly inspirational to see. She has the mind of a champion.

"I'm sorry that it had to end with an injury but, at the same time, she had a fantastic career. She can be proud of herself."

Djokovic's ATP rival Stefanos Tsitsipas - also victorious in Dubai on Wednesday - even suggested other players had been jealous of Sharapova.

"I come from a Russian background, so I kind of understand the way she approached tennis, the attitude and all of that," the Greek said. "I watched her play when I was young.

"I remember her winning the Wimbledon title, I don't know how old she was – 20, 17, unbelievable. She had a really good career, I can tell you.

"I think many people are jealous of the career she had. Obviously she was behind Serena, another great athlete, so I would say after Serena, she's probably the best.

"She had a really good career with great victories, great achievements in tennis. I think she added a lot to our sport."

Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at the age of 32.

A five-time grand slam champion, Sharapova has struggled with injuries in recent years while she also served a 15-month ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Announcing her decision to step away from the game in Vogue and Vanity Fair, she wrote: "How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known? 

"How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love — one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys — a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

"I'm new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis — I'm saying goodbye."

Sharapova finishes her career at 373 in the WTA rankings but spent much of her time on the circuit challenging for the game's biggest prizes.

Having moved from Russia to Florida aged six to pursue a tennis career, Sharapova's star continued to rise and, having turned pro in 2001, she made her first appearance at a Tour level event in 2002.

A year later she won her first WTA title at the Japan Open and her first grand slam success arrived aged 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.

By then she was well established as the pin-up girl of women's tennis and one of the most marketable athletes in the world.

Four more grand slam successes followed.

Sharapova, who ends her career with 36 WTA titles, wrote: "Wimbledon seemed like a good place to start. I was a naive 17-year-old, still collecting stamps, and didn’t understand the magnitude of my victory until I was older —and I'm glad I didn't.

"My edge, though, was never about feeling superior to other players. It was about feeling like I was on the verge of falling off a cliff — which is why I constantly returned to the court to figure out how to keep climbing.

"The US Open showed me how to overcome distractions and expectations. If you couldn't handle the commotion of New York - well, the airport was almost next door.

"The Australian Open took me to a place that had never been a part of me before - to an extreme confidence that some people call being 'in the zone'. I really can’t explain it - but it was a good place to be.

"The clay at the French Open exposed virtually all my weaknesses - for starters, my inability to slide on it - and forced me to overcome them. Twice. That felt good."

Her second success at Roland Garros came in 2014 but, by then, injuries were starting to take their toll and the last of her 10 appearances in a grand slam final ended in defeat to Serena Williams at the 2015 Australian Open.

The announcement she had failed the test for meldonium – a drug developed for heart patients that Sharapova claimed she took due to a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes - not only did irreparable damage to her image but also ended her status as a serious contender.

Sharapova protested her innocence and saw the initial two-year suspension reduced on appeal but her results since returning have been largely underwhelming.

She did reach the semi-finals of her comeback event, the Stuttgart Grand Prix, in April 2017 but her sole success was in a minor WTA International tournament in Tianjin. 

Her final match was at the 2020 Australian Open, a 6-3 6-4 first-round defeat to Donna Vekic.

Reports suggest she has earned over $30million in endorsements over the course of her career while she owns her own sweet brand – Sugarpova.

And it is those business interests she will now focus her time on.

She concluded: "In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I'll miss it every day.

"I'll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court's gate before I hit my first ball of the day.

"I'll miss my team, my coaches. I'll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes — win or lose — and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.

"Tennis showed me the world — and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth.

"And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I'll still be growing."

Venus Williams' tough start to 2020 continued as she squandered seven match points in a first-round loss at the Mexican Open, while Sloane Stephens was also beaten.

Williams made an early exit at the Australian Open and the American veteran went down to Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in Acapulco on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old wasted seven match points during the second set before bowing out after two hours, 38 minutes.

Williams, a two-time champion of the event, also served 13 double faults as she lost a fourth straight match – a run dating back to last year.

It was a tough day for the seeds at the WTA International event, where Williams was joined by Stephens and Lauren Davis in losing.

Stephens, the top seed and 2016 champion, suffered her fourth straight loss to begin 2020, going down to Mexican wildcard Renata Zarazua 6-4 6-2.

The fourth seed, Davis was edged by fellow American Christina McHale 6-2 1-6 6-4.

The only seed to advance was Zhu Lin, while there were also wins for Sara Errani, Katie Boulter, Katie Volynets, Leylah Fernandez and Caroline Dolehide.

Ash Barty swept into the last 16 of the Qatar Open on Tuesday with a straight-sets dismantling of Laura Siegemund.

In her first match since the Australian Open, world number one Barty triumphed 6-3 6-2 in her opening match at the WTA Premier event.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin endured another difficult day, though, losing to 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska, while defending champion Elise Mertens also bowed out.

Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova all advanced, while Melbourne runner-up Garbine Muguruza was in imperious form as she dispatched Ajla Tomljanovic for the loss of just three games.

There were also wins for Saisai Zheng over Vera Zvonareva, Ons Jabeur against Jennifer Brady, Maria Sakkari over Tereza Martincova and Svetlana Kuznetsova against Iga Swiatek.

BARTY BLASTS OUT OF THE BLOCKS

Playing for the first time since losing to Kenin in the Australian Open semi-finals, Barty produced a disciplined performance to beat Siegemund in 73 minutes.

Barty hit 19 winners to 16 unforced errors but admitted she lost focus at some key moments.

"Happy overall to be able to switch on when I really needed to. Disappointing to have a few lapses in concentration but also a credit to my opponent, she came up with some really good stuff in runs to be able to break me a few times," she said.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina next after she battled to beat Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-8).

KENIN WOES CONTINUE

Kenin has now lost three times since lifting the first grand slam singles title of the season, the American slumping to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) loss to Yastremska.

"It's really frustrating," she said. "Obviously coming off of Melbourne where I felt I was playing the best tennis of my life coming down to playing, not the worst tennis, but not playing the tennis I want to be playing."

Yastremska will now meet Muguruza, who wasted little time in beating Tomljanovic 6-1 6-2.

 

PLISKOVA CHARGES ON AS SEEDS PROGRESS

Pliskova was beaten in the quarter-finals in Dubai by Rybakina but looks determined to go the distance in Doha, producing an accomplished performance to oust Bernarda Pera 6-3 6-0.

Fourth seed Bencic was given a tougher time by Veronika Kudermetova before claiming a 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4) win that took more than two and a half hours.

Aryna Sabalenka edged a tight encounter with Anett Kontaveit 7-5 2-6 7-5, while Kvitova ended the challenge of Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Defending champion Mertens is out, though, falling to Yulia Putintseva 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Wang Yafan's Mexican Open title defence came to an end in the first round, while Coco Vandeweghe also made an early exit on Monday.

Last year's champion, second seed Wang Yafan fell to Wang Xiyu 6-4 7-6 (10-8) in her opener in Acapulco.

Wang Yafan could convert just four of 12 break points, while Wang Xiyu capitalised on five of her eight.

A two-time grand slam semi-finalist, Vandeweghe suffered her fifth defeat in nine matches in 2020 with a 4-6 6-4 6-4 loss to seventh seed Heather Watson at the WTA International event.

Of the four seeds in action, Nao Hibino joined Watson in advancing, while Marie Bouzkova went down to Tatjana Maria to be one of two casualties alongside Wang Yafan.

Tamara Zidansek, Anastasia Potapova and Kateryna Bondarenko also progressed on Monday.

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