Season 2017 has arrived, the Brisbane International will once again be the headline act in the first week of the WTA calendar. Five of the world’s top ten ranked players will be in action in Brisbane: 2016 Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza as well as Dominika Cibulkova, Karolina Pliskova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Doha will play host to the first premier 5 level event of the 2016 WTA season. The Qatar Total Open is always one of the most exciting stops on the WTA Tour and has again attracted a stellar line-up despite some high profile withdrawals. 7 of the top 10 players in the world will be in action in Doha, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are notable absentees. Main draw action will begin on Sunday; the top 8 seeds will receive a bye into the second round.
— Qatar Tennis Fed. (@QatarTennis) February 19, 2016
Hot: Angelique Kerber, Barbora Strycova, Belinda Bencic, Sara Errani, Caroline Garcia, Roberta Vinci
Cold: Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Ekaterina Makarova
There are a number of players in the draw this week that will be desperate to reverse recent form slumps. High profile players such as Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep are the most notable players to have made extremely disappointing starts to the season. Conversely the form players heading into the event include Dubai finalists Barbora Strycova and Sara Errani as well as Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci are two other players that bring form and confidence into the event after solid starts to the year.
The draw is loaded this week in Doha, there will therefore be a number of tough first round clashes. The most notable first round matches include Kristina Mladenovic vs Barbora Strycova, Karolina Pliskova vs Margarita Gasparyan, Ekaterina Makarova vs Andrea Petkovic, Sara Errani vs Tsvetana Pironkova and Sabine Lisicki vs Monica Niculescu.
Agnieszka Radwanska will be one of the main contenders this week in Doha. The Pole decided not to compete in Dubai last week due to a lingering leg injury but should be fresh and ready to compete at a high level this week and has been handed a pretty favourable draw. The Pole is in the third quarter of the draw where she is projected to meet Annika Beck or a qualifier in the second round before a potential clash with Jelena Jankovic or Sabine Lisicki in third round. Aga’s projected quarter-final opponent is the seventh seed and defending champion Lucie Safarova. Overall it is a nice section of the draw for Aga who is a clear favourite against anyone in her quarter and also looks the favourite to come through the bottom half of the draw which also features Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro and Caroline Wozniacki.
Lucie Safarova will make her much anticipated return to tennis this week in Doha as she attempts to defend her Qatar Total Open title. Safarova was unfortunately forced to sit out of the entire Australian summer because of the ongoing effects of a bacterial infection which interrupted the second half of 2015 for the Roland Garros runner-up. Safarova will receive a bye into the second round where she will face either Lucie Hradecka or Cagla Buyukakcay, a reasonable opening match for Lucie before a tough potential third round clash with Roberta Vinci. It will be interesting to see what kind of level Safarova is at this week, I suspect it will be extremely tough for Safarova to even come close to defending her title this week given it is her first tournament for some time.
Angelique Kerber will be participating in her first WTA event since claiming her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month, The German will be the top seed this week in Doha. Kerber is in a tough section of the draw, the German will face either Varvara Lepchenko or Saisai Zheng in the second round after receiving a first round bye and is looking set for a third round clash with either Elina Svitolina or Eugenie Bouchard. Petra Kvitova, Barbora Strycova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are all among tough potential quarter-final opponents for the German. It will be interesting to see how Angie handles herself in her first tournament since the Australian Open and in her first major tournament as the top seed, this is certainly a new experience for Angie.
Predicted Quarter-Finals: Kerber vs Strycova, Muguruza vs Bencic, Vinci vs Radwanska & Suarez Navarro vs Garcia
It is really tough to predict a winner this week at this stage of the event. Dubai was a prime example of the unpredictability of these kind of events when some of the biggest stars are not in attendance. However, there are far more consistently high performing players in action this week and I expect players such as Angelique Kerber, Belinda Bencic, Roberta Vinci, Carla Suarez Navarro and Agnieszka Radwanska to all have a good week. Ultimately I think Radwanska will emerge victorious and claim her first Doha title, with Kerber my second favourite to win the title. Aga has been in great form for months now and will fancy her chances against anyone in the draw this week at the Qatar Total Open.
Predicted Champion: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska
Who do you think will win the title in Doha? Let me know in the comments section 🙂
The 2016 Dubai Duty Free Championships field has been decimated by withdrawals prior to the commencement of the event. Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Lucie Safarova, Timea Bacsinszky, Caroline Wozniacki and Alize Cornet among those to withdraw from the event. Nevertheless, the draw is still filled with top quality players, defending champion Simona Halep will be the top seed with Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova looming as the Romanian’s biggest threats in Dubai.
— Dubai Tennis Champs (@DDFTennis) February 13, 2016
The draw has thrown up some intriguing first round matches in Dubai, most notably: Ana Ivanovic vs Daria Gavrilova, Anna Schmiedlova vs Caroline Garcia, Andrea Petkovic vs Camila Giorgi, Jelena Jankovic vs Belinda Bencic and Karolina Pliskova vs CoCo Vandeweghe. There will be no easy matches for any players right from the start, a couple of the top seeds look set for a very difficult first up challenge.
There are also a number of potentially dangerous qualifiers to be added to the main draw in the coming days, including Yaroslova Shvedova, Varvara Lepchenko, Alison Riske and Tsvetana Pironkova.
Simona Halep has been dealt a tough draw in Dubai, the defending champion and top seed will receive a bye through the opening round before playing either Ana Ivanovic or Daria Gavrilova in the second round. This is an important week for the Romanian, Simona has made a terrible start to the season, highlighted by her shocking first round loss to Zhang Shuai at the Australian Open. Simona showed signs of improvement during Romania’s Fed Cup tie with the Czech Republic, Simona lost to Karolina Pliskova in three sets but rebounded with a three set victory over Petra Kvitova. The world number 3 needs a big week to give herself a much needed confidence moving forward.
The bottom quarter of the draw is filled with potential blockbuster matches. Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza could be on track for a quarter-final meeting, but before that Pliksova could face Kristina Mladenovic in the second round if she can navigate her way through a tough first round match with CoCo Vandeweghe. Overall, it is a very tough draw for the 2015 runner-up. Whilst Garbine Muguruza could face Elina Svitolina in the second round.
There are numerous realistic potential champions this week in Dubai. St. Petersburg finalists Roberta Vinci and Belinda Bencic will be the two form players heading into the event but may struggle physically towards the end of the event. Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza are the three biggest names in the draw but all of them bring questionable form into the event. Perhaps this is a perfect opportunity for players like Caroline Garcia, Elina Svitolina, Camila Giorgi or Daria Gavrilova to claim a maiden premier level title?
Predicted Champion: Garbine Muguruza
Who do you think will win the title in Dubai? Let me know what you think, leave a comment 🙂
The 2016 ASB Classic features on of the strongest ever fields for the Auckland event. Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will again be among the headline acts with Ana Ivanovic, Sloane Stephens and Barbora Strycova also in action. A number of the world’s most promising young talents are also involved this week, including Daria Kasatkina, Nao Hibino and Jelena Ostapenko. A good mixture of talent, this should be a good week of tennis in Auckland
Defending Champion Venus Williams sits at the top of the draw. The American will be keen to carry her strong end of 2015 season form into Auckland as she aims to defend her title and make a strong start to the season just like she did in 2015. Venus will start her title defense with a potentially difficult encounter against talented youngster Daria Kasatkina. Lurking at the bottom of this quarter is the seventh seeded Barbora Strycova who will open her campaign against a qualifier. Venus and Barbora were involved in a very heated battle in Doha last year, a rematch would highly entertaining.
Fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova headlines the second quarter, the Russian will begin her Auckland campaign with a difficult encounter against the always dangerous Mona Barthel. A bunch of Americans feature at the opposite end of this section, including the sixth seeded CoCo Vandeweghe who will start the tournament against compatriot Irina Falconi, Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a potential second round opponent for the winner. CoCo would be keen for a rematch with Mattek-Sands after her countrywoman embarrassed her at the U.S Open last year.
2015 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki will be keen to go one step better in 2016. Wozniacki was really disappointed with her 2015 results but says she is feeling fit and ready to turn things around in the new year. The Dane faces Danka Kovinic in her opening match of the tournament, a fairly reasonable draw for Wozniacki. The Dane is projected to meet either Christina McHale or Misaki Doi in the second round whilst the eighth seeded Alison Van Uytvanck sits at the opposite end of the third quarter of the draw. The always entertaining Yulia Putintseva also features in this section, the Kazakh will face Marina Erakovic in the first round.
The final section of the draw features the second seeded Ana Ivanovic and the fifth seeded Sloane Stephens who look highly likely to battle it out at the quarter-final stage. Ivanovic and Stephens both had disappointing seasons in 2015 and will be looking for much better results in 2016 starting with a strong showing in Auckland. Sloane will begin her Auckland campaign with a first round clash against Polona Hercog whilst Ivanovic faces a qualifier.
This looks like a really difficult tournament to predict at this stage, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic certainly stand out as the clear favourites however their progression through to the later stages of the tournament isn’t guaranteed. All three will face some tough opponents at the early stages of the event. I still believe one of these three will certainly emerge victorious at the end of the week.
I’m going to back Ana Ivanovic to start the year off with a bang by claiming the title in Auckland with a victory over Venus Williams
The 2016 season is set to begin on Sunday with the first premier level event of the year commencing in Brisbane. The tournament has once again attracted a stunning line-up with 3 of the world’s top 5 players in action (defending champion Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza). Victoria Azarenka, Dominika Cibulkova, Belinda Bencic and Angelique Kerber add depth to a typically highly competitive field for the first big event of the year. An exciting week of tennis is guaranteed in the Queensland capital.
Simona Halep sits at the top of the draw and potentially faces an extremely difficult opening round match. The Romanian top seed receives a bye into the second round where she is likely to run into Victoria Azarenka (should the Belarussian advance past a qualifier in the first round). This would be a blockbuster second round match, a massive early season test for both Simona and Victoria. The top quarter of the draw is extremely stacked with the eighth seeded Roberta Vinci and Jelena Jankovic at the bottom of the first quarter. Dominika Cibulkova looms as a dangerous floater in this section of the draw, the Slovakian will come up against Yanina Wickmayer in the opening round.
The second quarter of the draw is headlined by defending champion Maria Sharapova. The Russian has enjoyed her time in Brisbane over the last couple of years, reaching the semi-finals in 2014 before claiming the title for the first time in 2015 with a win over Ana Ivanovic in a memorable final. Maria faces a tough opening round opponent this year, she will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in her first match.
Maria looks like the clear favourite to advance through the second quarter, her biggest threat will come from the eighth seeded Belinda Bencic, an opponent she has never faced (that would be a highly entertaining quarter-final match-up). Belinda Bencic will start her 2016 season with a first round battle with Sara Errani. Andrea Petkovic is the potentially troublesome unseeded floater in this section. Ultimately the top half of the draw looks far more difficult with the majority of the tournament favourites residing in the top half of the draw.
The third quarter of the draw includes seeded players Timea Bacsinszky and Angelique Kerber. Bacsinszky will kick-start her Brisbane campaign with a tough first round clash against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The winner of that match will face the winner of an all French affair between Alize Cornet and Kristina Mladenovic. The fourth seeded Angelique Kerber sits at the bottom of this section and she too faces a difficult opening round opponent when she faces Camila Giorgi. The Italian is certainly capable of causing an upset, the German will be wary.
The sixth seeded Carla Suarez Navarro sits at the top of the fourth quarter and will begin her Brisbane campaign when she comes up against local wild card Ajla Tomljanovic. This looms as an important match for both ladies who will be eager to start their season with a victory. At the bottom of the draw is the second seeded Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard will receive a bye into the second round before facing either Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or Varvara Lepchenko in her opening match of the season. The unseeded Sam Stosur also features in this section, Sam will play a qualifier in the first round. A good draw for Sam, but a victory is no certainty given her record in Australia.
Overall, the draw is very exciting with blockbuster matches right from the very beginning of the tournament. There are a number of potential champions that spring to mind, most notably: Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep. Of those four, Garbine clearly has the easiest draw and looks a good chance to advance to the final if she brings her late 2015 form to the Queensland capital. It is tough to predict who will come through the top section: a potential semi-final between Victoria Azarenka or Simona and Maria Sharapova looms. Perhaps the winner will someone else, Angelique Kerber, Belinda Bencic, Dominika Cibulkova all have a strong chance among others. Ultimately, I think it will be Victoria Azarenka who starts the year on a high, by claiming another big title on Australian soil.
Predicted champion: Victoria Azarenka
(1) Simona Halep
Titles: Shenzhen, Dubai, Indian Wells
WTA Finals Record: F: 2014
Best Victory: U.S Open QF vs Victoria Azarenka 6-3 4-6 6-4
Worst Loss: Roland Garros R2: vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 5-7 1-6
Simona Halep enters her second WTA Finals campaign as the top seed. The 2014 runner-up has had a season full of ups and downs. The Romanian started the year in outstanding fashion, claiming titles in Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells. However the Romanian’s season will be remembered by her shocking early round losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Simona regained her early season form during the North American swing, highlighted by runner-up appearances in Toronto and Cincinnati before reaching the semi-finals in New York. The Romanian’s form during the Asian swing was lacklustre ad plagued by an Achilles injury. After a couple of weeks off and a solid practise block in Singapore, Simona is certainly one of the main contenders this week. Simona seemed to enjoy the Singapore surface last year and will enter the event with great memories after her demolition of Serena Williams during the group stage last year.
(2) Garbine Muguruza
WTA Finals Record: First appearance
Best Victory: Wimbledon SF vs Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 3-6 6-3
Worst Loss: U.S Open R2 vs Johanna Konta 6-7 7-6 2-6
Garbine Muguruza enters her first WTA Finals campaign as one of the form players at the event. The Spaniard was the clear standout during the Asian swing, reaching the final in Wuhan before claiming the biggest title of her career in Beijing. Muguruza generally performance well at the Grand Slam level, highlighted by her first Grand Slam final appearance at Wimbledon. Garbine has established herself as a big-time player, she certainly seems to rise to the occasion and will be one of the main contenders in Singapore.
(3) Maria Sharapova
Titles: Brisbane, Rome
WTA Finals Record: Champion: 2004, F: 2006, 2011, SF 2005, RR: 2014, 2012, 2007
Best Win: Wimbledon QF vs CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 6-7 6-2
Worst Loss: Mimi R1 vs Daria Gavrilova 6-7 3-6
Maria Sharapova’s season has been plagued by injury and illness, however the Russian still managed to record some solid results and did well to finish 3rd in the Race to Singapore despite missing a number of tournaments including the U.S Open. Maria started the year off extremely well in Australia, claiming the title in Brisbane before succumbing to Serena Williams in a competitive final at the Australian Open. Maria also reached the semi-final stage at Wimbledon despite a limited preparation before once again succumbing to Serena Williams. Maria missed the majority of the Asian Swing because of an arm injury and will therefore be one of the freshest of the elite 8 in Singapore, this could work in her favour. Maria has a positive record against everyone at the event except against Flavia Pennetta.
(4) Petra Kvitova
Titles: Sydney, Madrid, New Haven
WTA Finals Record: W: 2011 SF: 2013 RR: 2014, 2012,
Best Victory: Madrid SF vs Serena Williams 6-2 6-3
Worst Loss: Wimbledon R3 vs Jelena Jankovic 6-3 5-7 4-6
Petra Kvitova will be competing in her 5th consecutive WTA Finals campaign this year. Kvitova’s form during 2015 was surprisingly consistent. Petra didn’t have too many disastrous losses and generally competed well at the biggest events. The Czech’s season was highlighted by her surprisingly good results during the clay court season where she defeated Serena Williams on route to the title in Madrid. Petra’s results during the grass court season were much worse than expected, suffering a very disappointing 3rd loss to Jelena Jankovic. Petra was diagnosed with Mononucleosis prior to the North American summer, in spite of this Petra did very well to claim the title in New Haven and reach the Quarter-finals in New York for the first time. Unfortunately, Petra was unable to continue that solid form in Asia but the former champion has a wonderful chance to end her season on a high in Singapore
(5) Agnieszka Radwanska
Titles: Toyo, Tianjin
WTA Finals Record: SF: 2014, 202 RR: 2013, 2011, 2009 & 2008
Best Victory: Tokyo F vs Belinda Bencic 6-2 6-2
Worst Loss: Roland Garros R1 vs Annika Beck 2-6 6-3 1-6
Agnieszka Radwanska will be making her 5th consecutive appearance at the WTA Finals. The Pole’s early season partnership with Martina Navratilova was a failure, Aga’s struggles were highlighted by an early round loss to Heather Watson at Indian Wells and a disastrous first round loss to Annika Beck at Roland Garros. Aga turned her season around during the British summer, reaching the final in Eastbourne and semi-finals at Wimbledon. It was during the Asian swing that Aga produced her best tennis, claiming titles in Tokyo and Tianjin without dropping a set. The Pole arrives in Singapore full of confidence, this looks like a good opportunity for Aga to claim the biggest title of her career.
(6) Angelique Kerber
Titles: Charleston, Stuttgart, Birmingham, Stanford
WTA Finals Record: RR: 2013, 2012
Best Win: Stuttgart R2 vs Maria Sharapova 2-6 7-5 6-1
Worst Loss: Australian Open R1 vs Irina-Camelia Begu 4-6 6-0 1-6
Angelique Kerber has had a strange season, claiming an impressive 4 titles at the premier level but failing to reach the second week at a Grand Slam. Kerber was successful on every surface and has been part of several epic matches this year. Most of the best matches this year have featured the German. Kerber was dealt tough draws at Grand Slams, twice running into a red-hot Garbine Muguruza before losing to a determined Victoria Azarenka in New York. Angie played a lot of tennis during the Asian swing and looks to be stumbling into Singapore after clearly suffering from injury in the Hong Kong final a last week. Nevertheless, Angie remains a huge threat this week, she has a good time to recover and has a good record against most of the elite 8 and will be one of the main contenders this week.
(7) Flavia Pennetta
Titles: U.S Open
WTA Finals record: First appearance
Best Win: U.S Open SF vs Simona Halep 6-1 6-3
Worst Loss: Tianjin R1 vs Lyudmyla Kichenok 3-6 5-7
Flavia Pennetta will end her career in style by competing in her first career WTA Finals campaign. It has been a fairy-tale couple of months for the Italian who stunned the tennis world in New York where she defeated Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep on route to her first Grand Slam title. Flavia’s early season form was poor, highlighted by first round losses at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. The Italian’s form in the lead up to New York was also quite poor, her victory in New York really came out of nowhere. Flavia struggled to re-group during the Asian swing but she did enough to reach Singapore. Flavia will be looking to end her career on a high in Singapore, anything is possible.
(8) Lucie Safarova
WTA Finals Record: First appearance
Best Victory: Doha F vs Victoria Azarenka 6-4 6-3
Worst Loss: Miami R1 vs Johanna Larsson 6-7 2-6
Lucie Safarova’s season started off in horrible fashion with a first round loss to Yaroslava Shvedova at the Australian Open. The Czech recovered from that loss in Doha where she claimed the biggest title of her career. Lucie’s greatest result came at Roland Garros, reaching her first Grand Slam final, eventually succumbing to Serena Williams in a tough 3 set match. Lucie’s form deteriorated as the season went on, having a disappointing grass court season before being struck down by a bacterial infection which stopped her from competing during the Asian swing. Lucie returned to the courts in Linz and Moscow but suffered two first round losses, Lucie seems to have lost a lot of weight and muscle and looks like the weakest link in Singapore.
This promises to be a very exciting, competitive week of tennis in Singapore. There numerous legitimate potential champions this week, a wonderful opportunity for everyone to claim the biggest title outside of the 4 Grand Slams.
Here we go again! As always the season will kick off with a bang at the premier level Brisbane International held at the intimate Pat Rafter Arena. The event has once again attracted a stellar lineup, an exciting mix of experience and youth.
Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka are the headline acts at this year's event . Their biggest competition will come from Dominika Cibulkova, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankovic. Whilst Rising stars: Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Madison Keys will all be keen to make a bright start to what shapes as a critical season in their respective careers.
Home Crowd favourite Samantha Stosur will return to her home state event this year. Stosur choosing to avoid the Hopman Cup, instead opting for a more pressurised start to her 2015 Australian Open campaign.
A notable absentee at this year's first premier level event is world number 1 and 2 time defending champion Serena Williams. Serena instead choosing to begin her season at the Hopman Cup. It seems Serena is looking to mix things up after consecutive seasons of disappointment in Melbourne despite playing well in Brisbane. Serena will be joined in Perth by fellow top 10 occupants Agnieszka Radwanska and Eugenie Bouchard. Whilst Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep will begin their season at the international level Shenzhen Open.
Several players will be desperately seeking much needed ranking points in a final push to be seeded at the upcoming Australian Open. Most notably, Victoria Azarenka. The belarusian will be under extreme pressure to defend her finalist points from 2014 in order to ensure she is seeded in Melbourne. Madison Keys, Caroline Garcia and Varvara Lepchenko are also delicately poised in the race to obtain a seeding at the Australian Open.
At the top of the draw lyes Maria Sharapova, the first seed will receive a bye into the second round. The two biggest threats in Maria's quarter will be Sabine Lisicki (potential second round opponent) and seventh seed Carla Suarez Navarro (potential quarterfinal opponent). Sabine Lisicki would certainly be a tricky first up opponent for Maria, a potential banana skin indeed.
Quarter 1 predication: Maria Sharapova
Third seed Angelique Kerber and sixth seed Jelena Jankovic headline the second quarter of the draw. Angie will begin her 2015 campaign against the dangerous Caroline Garcia. Whilst Jelena Jankovic faces another talented youngster, Ajla Tomljanovic. Elina Svitolina and Alison Riske lurk as potential threats in the second quarter.
Quarter 2 Prediction: Angelique Kerber
The third quarter is by far the most challenging section of the draw. Eighth seed Garbine Muguruza and fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova are joined by the unseeded Victoria Azarenka, Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Sam Stosur. Azarenka will face Pliskova in a blockbuster opening round match whilst Dominika Cibulkova will face Madison Keys. An Extremely exciting section which is sure to provide some drama.
Quarter 3 Prediction: Victoria Azarenka
The bottom quarter is a mess... Compared to the other sections. Fifth seed Andrea Petkovic and second seed Ana Ivanovic have certainly been treated kindly. The two are joined by two qualifiers. Petkovic will face Kanepi in the opening round whilst Ivanovic will receive a bye into the second round. Ana will face either Shuai Zhang or Jarmila Gajdosova in the second round.
Quarter 4 Prediction: Ana Ivanovic
Champion Prediction: Victoria Azarenka Def. Maria sharapova
The first tournaments of the year are always the most difficult to predict.
This tournament is particularly important for Vika who will be desperate to ensure she is seeded in Melbourne but more importantly to gain momentum heading into her most successful Grand Slam. Vika is the type of player that can win and compete with the best even when she is rusty, she may need to call on those qualities in Brisbane.
In the past a fully for Vika has been extremely difficult to defeat, especially in Australia. I'm tipping Vika will remind us what a champion she is in Brisbane despite having a reasonably difficult draw.