Doha R2: (2) Simona Halep vs (Q) Elena Vesnina
2014 Qatar Total Open Champion Simona Halep will begin her 2016 Doha campaign on Tuesday evening with a second round clash against the experienced Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina. Simona has made a really disappointing start to the season and will be desperate to spend as much time as possible on court this week in Doha with Indian Well and Miami just around the corner, the Romanian can’t afford to arrive at those events totally deprived of confidence given the amount of points she has to defend during those events.
Simona Halep has lost 3 of her last 4 matches including a first up defeat in Dubai last week. Simona was unable to come close to defending her title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, suffering a straight set loss to Ana Ivanovic in her first match of the event. The Romanian has been unable to totally recover from her shock first round loss to Shuai Zhang at the Australian Open, Simona seems to be lacking confidence ever since that loss and is a shadow of the player that won the title in Doha back in 2014. It is critical for Simona to have a good week in Doha, if Simona continues to struggle over the next couple of weeks her ranking will drop dramatically given she is the defending champion at Indian Wells and is defending semi-finalist points in Miami.
Elena Vesnina also had a disappointing Australian summer but is showing signs of improvement this week in Doha. The Russian came through the qualifying draw in style, recording straight set victories over Ons Jabeur and Naomi Broady. Vesnina’s form translated into main draw success on Monday when she recorded a surprise 6-3 7-5 victory over Caroline Garcia.
Halep and Vesnina have never played a completed match against each other. Usually Halep would enter this match as a clear favourite, however the Romanian’s form is certainly far from her best right now and Vesnina is the type of opponent that will make life very difficult for Halep if the Romanian is having a bad night. Vesnina also has the added advantage of having already played 3 matches this week in Doha and is playing pretty good tennis week. I’m still going to stick with Halep, I suspect this will be a really close match but the Romanian should ultimately prevail in what is a critical match for the world number 4.