Tennis: Rain-hit Qatar Open could end without a winner, admit organisers

Karolina Pliskova (above) is among several players due to play at the Dubai Tennis Championships next week.
Karolina Pliskova (above) is among several players due to play at the Dubai Tennis Championships next week.PHOTO: AFP

DOHA (AFP) - The rain-ravaged Qatar Open could finish without a winner this year, a senior official conceded on Friday (Feb 17) as the tournament was again battered by heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Tariq Darwish Zainal, secretary-general of the Qatar Tennis Federation, said play would not continue after Sunday even if the final matches could not be played.

The tournament has been hit by huge delays because of the wet weather, some of the worst experienced in Doha for years.

Rain has delayed play on every single day, and virtually wiping out all matches on two days.

"The WTA gives us one (extra) day, if we don't finish all the matches the tournament finishes without a winner," said Zainal.

He added that in that case, all players would receive points and prize money up to the stage they had reached.

The Qatar Open is scheduled to finish on Saturday, but has the option of extending to Sunday.

Several of the players, including Karolina Pliskova and Dominika Cibulkova, who were playing against each other in the first semi-final on Friday night, are due to play at the Dubai Tennis Championships next week, where qualification rounds are already under way.

Zainal added that Doha is looking at building a new 12,000-seater stadium, which will include a roof. This could be ready by 2021, he said.

Friday was yet another rain-soaked day as play was halted on several occasions, including an almost five-hour break as thunder and lightning hit the Qatari capital.

However, the rain eventually receded at around 7.30pm (1630 GMT) local time.

By late evening, Monica Puig, Caroline Wozniacki, Pliskova and Cibulkova had all qualified for the semi-finals.

Puerto Rico's Puig, the Olympic champion, finally beat Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

She will play Wozniacki who beat American qualifier Lauren Davis, 7-5 6-1.

Pliskova made short work of China's Zhang Shuai, winning 6-2, 6-0 to set up a showdown with Cibulkova.

Organisers hope to finish both matches by Friday night, meaning Puig, Wozniacki and Pliskova will have played twice in one day.

However, further bad weather is forecast for Saturday.