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.