Dubai and Doha have switched this year in the calendar and will continue to do so over the coming years with Dubai being upgraded to a Premier 5 tournament for 2015. Personally, I much prefer Dubai to Doha and the court surface is normally much faster. The draw was hit with two late withdrawals of Serena Williams (illness) and Eugenie Bouchard (arm injury). Seven of the world’s top ten are in Dubai and without Serena and Maria, the draw is wide open. The overlap of Antwerp and Dubai has resulted in a very messy draw with two players yet to be assigned. Two performance byes will be given to the two finalists in Antwerp. Dubai main draw starts on SUNDAY so let’s get cracking with this draw!
The loss of Serena Williams from the draw has seen Simona Halep bumped up to the number one seed in Dubai. Halep seemed to be gathering pace in Melbourne before falling to Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals in a surprising straight sets loss, 6-4 6-0. Halep is seeded to meet Makarova again in the quarter-finals of Dubai. Halep’s tournament will start in the second round against the winner of a first round match between Mona Barthel and Daniela Hantuchova; both had solid weeks in Antwerp and Pattaya with Barthel beating Eugenie Bouchard and Hantuchova reaching the final respectively. The first seed that Halep could meet is Peng Shuai. Makarova’s positon as a top eight seed at a tournament of this calibre is a testament to how far she has come along in the last year having reached at least quarter-finals of the last three Grand Slams. Her section looks pretty light with first potential seed, Andrea Petkovic having played some tough matches in Fed Cup / Antwerp over the last week… therefore, a Halep v Makarova quarter-final is the most likely outcome from this quarter.
Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber head up the second quarter. Wozniacki hasn’t played since losing in the second round of the Australian Open to Victoria Azarenka. She should be refreshed but equally, may need some matches to find her rhythm. Her first match of the week will be against Sam Stosur or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Stosur’s form hasn’t been anything special of late, but she has always been a difficult opponent for Caro. The pair have a very competitive head-to-head which is tied at 4-4. Stosur won their last match in Beijing at the end of 2014, 6-4 7-6(9). Last year’s finalist in Dubai, Alize Cornet could meet Wozniacki in the third round. Cornet plays Kirsten Flipkens in the first round, who she defeated three times last year including in Dubai. Flipkens has won just one match this year so i’d definitely take Cornet going forward.
Kerber suffered a puzzling 6-1 6-1 loss to Francesca Schiavone in Antwerp. This may have been a comedown from a mentally taxing weekend in Fed Cup action. Her first match of the week in Dubai will be against the winner of one of the better looking first rounders between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kaia Kanepi. Attempting to separate Kuznetsova and Kanepi is challenging and it’s likely to be a hilarious mess of a match. However both players have beaten Kerber in the past and the winner is likely to be a handful for the German player.
This is my favourite of the four quarters. The defending champion, Venus Williams has bagged the last of the top eight seeds and will play either Belinda Bencic or Karin Knapp in the second round. Knapp beat Bencic last year in Cincy qualifying and the 17-year-old is yet to pick up a WTA main draw win in 2015. Venus could meet Lucie Safarova in the third round. Lucie will open against Monica Puig and has been spared a potential second round match against Karolina Pliskova due to Dominika Cibulkova‘s withdrawal from the tournament.
Ana Ivanovic makes her return after a first round exit at the Australian Open to Lucie Hradecka. Ivanovic later revealed that she had played the tournament with a broken toe. Her first match of the week will be against Sabine Lisicki or Monica Niculescu. Lisicki is yet to win a match in 2015 and will need to play smart to overcome the very tricky Niculescu. Lisicki beat Niculescu in Hong Kong last year, but has felt the wrath of Niculescu’s unorthodox game before, losing three of their five previous encounters. Ivanovic is seeded to meet Karolina Pliskova in the third round. If her semi-final performance in Antwerp is anything to go by, this is going to be a very tough turnaround for Pliskova with her first match set to be on Monday. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is a potential second round opponent for Pliskova.
Petra Kvitova is the number two seed in Dubai and opens against the winner of what is sure to be a feisty first rounder between Elina Svitolina or Coco Vandeweghe. Kvitova is projected to meet Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round, who beat her at this tournament last year. It was one of those “ohhhhh Petraaaa” moments as she failed to hold onto a set and a break lead before succumbing in three sets. Agnieszka Radwanska is the other top eight seed. After falling to Venus Williams at the Australian Open, Radwanska lost both of her matches in Fed Cup action to Kuznetsova and Sharapova. She faces a testing draw in Dubai with Caroline Garcia and Garbine Muguruza in her path, both players who she has lost too in the last six months. Jelena Jankovic is also worth a mention as she could face Muguruza in the second round if both win their first rounders against qualifiers. Muguruza has drawn the toughest of the qualifiers, Jarmila Gajdosova… that could be a humdinger of a first round match.
1st Round Predictions: Barthel d. Hantuchova in 2 sets, Pironkova d. Koukalova in 3 sets, Beck d. Diyas in 3 sets, Stosur d. Lucic-Baroni in 2 tight sets, Cornet d. Flipkens in 2 sets, Pennetta d. Goerges in 3 sets, Kuznetsova d. Kanepi in 3 wacky sets, Bencic d. Knapp in 2 sets, Safarova d. Puig in 3 sets, Lisicki d. Niculescu in 3 sets, Muguruza d. Gajdosova in 2 tight sets, Giorgi d. Zvonareva in 3 sets and Svitolina d. Vandeweghe in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Predictions: Halep v Makarova, Wozniacki v Pennetta, V.Williams v Ivanovic and Muguruza v Kvitova
Final Prediction: Kvitova d. Wozniacki