Top seeds Svitolina, Pliskova suffer shock exits from Qatar Open

Elina Svitolina suffered a shock defeat at the quarterfinal stage against Victoria Azarenka in Qatar. Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images

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 on Thursday.

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 or Maria Sakkari in the semifinals.

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 Petra 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.