The first Premier 5 tournament of 2020 is upon us with the main draw set to commence on Sunday at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. It’s a decent line-up with six of the world’s top ten in the draw. Simona Halep, who beat Elena Rybakina in a stunning final to win Dubai, has pulled out of Doha prompting a slight draw reshuffle. Read on for a preview of Doha with some highlights to look forward to from the main draw.
Seeds 1️⃣: (1) Ash Barty, (3) Karolina Pliskova, (6) Sofia Kenin, (8) Petra Kvitova, (10) Petra Martic, (11) Garbiñe Muguruza, (13) Alison Riske and (14) Elena Rybakina
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Dayana Yastremska, Jennifer Brady, Ons Jabeur, Ajla Tomljanovic and Jelena Ostapenko
General thoughts 🤔: The top half of the draw is loaded with many of the star performers in 2020 including both Australian Open finalists, the Adelaide champ, the Brisbane champ and the red-hot, Elena Rybakina, who has reached four finals already in 2020. Rybakina has had a brutal schedule so i’m wondering whether she will take to the court in Doha.
Blockbuster R1 match(es) 🎆: With both arguably in the best form of their careers, Alison Riske vs. Jennifer Brady should be an intriguing contest. Riske has been surging since the grass court season last year and broke into the world’s top 20 at the end of 2019 for the first time in her career. Brady has been steadily rising up the rankings and will rise to a career high ranking inside the world’s top 50 next week after reaching the semi-finals in Dubai as a qualifier. The match has even more significance with the race to the Olympics – the qualification for the US women is going to be brutal with only the top four confirmed for Tokyo.
I’m also looking forward to Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Daria Kasatkina. The pair haven’t played against each other for nearly two years with both struggling during this period. Muguruza seems to be well on the way up, competing superbly, while Kasatkina still seems to be finding her way. Kasatkina beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Aliaksandra Sasnovich in qualifying to reach the main draw in Doha. Their last three matches have all gone the distance. Notably, their second round match in Brisbane in 2017, which Muguruza won in a third set tiebreak, was a cracking contest.
Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: There is a potential quarter-final looming between the top two Czechs, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova. It’s not a match-up we’ve seen that often with the pair having played only four times. A rematch of the Australian Open is also possible in the third round between Sofia Kenin and Garbiñe Muguruza. Looking earlier in the draw (and perhaps more likely), i’d like to see Kenin-Yastremska and Muguruza-Tomljanovic in the second round. Kenin-Yastremska feels like a match-up we’re going to see many times over the next decade (and potentially in a Slam final one day), while Muguruza-Tomljanovic was one of my favourite matches of this year’s Australian Open.
Fun fact 🤓: Yaroslava Shvedova is set to play her first singles match since the 2017 French Open! Shvedova, who gave birth to twins in October 2018, will play the qualifier, Laura Siegemund, in the first round.
Dark horse 🐴: While she has endured some tough losses in her last two tour-level matches, I’d keep an eye out for Dayana Yastremska in this draw. The 19-year-old failed to convert on a 5-2 third set lead against Veronika Kudermetova in Dubai last week before going onto lose in a third set tiebreak. However, results swing quickly on the WTA tour. If (yes, a big if!) she can get through her opener against Kirsten Flipkens then she might well fancy herself in the position of underdog against the Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin, in the second round.
Semi-finalists🏵️: I’m always quiet on Ash Barty after a break from the tour as she normally takes a few matches to find her rhythm. Siegemund in the second round is a potential banana skin but I generally like this draw for Ash. I think the other semi-finalist will be a Czech and i’ll go for Petra Kvitova.
Seeds 1️⃣: (4) Belinda Bencic, (5) Elina Svitolina, (7) Kiki Bertens, (9) Aryna Sabalenka, (12) Marketa Vondrousova, (15) Maria Sakkari, (16) Elise Mertens and (17) Donna Vekic
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Iga Swiatek and Karolina Muchova
General thoughts 🤔: The bottom half of the draw feels like a pretty level playing field compared to the top half with the two highest seeds not enjoying much success in 2020 so far. There are so many matches where it’s difficult to pick out a winner.
Blockbuster R1 match(es) 🎆: My pick of the bunch is Donna Vekic vs. Iga Swiatek. The pair played in Melbourne last month where Swiatek beat Vekic in the third round, 7-5 6-3. Also of note from the bottom half is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Yulia Putintseva which I feel could bring some drama?! Anett Kontaveit vs. Anastasija Sevastova and Maria Sakkari vs. Julia Goerges are both noteworthy matches where it’s not obvious who the seed is.
Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: Kiki Bertens’s draw could be a fun one. I’d relish the opportunity to watch Bertens vs. Karolina Muchova (R2) and Bertens vs. Marketa Vondrousova (R3). The hipster match-up alert from the bottom half would be Vondrousova vs. Hsieh Su-Wei which is a potential second rounder 😍.
Fun fact 🤓: Elise Mertens and Wang Qiang will play in the first round for the second consecutive week. The pair played each other in the first round of Dubai where Mertens won, 6-3 6-0, in just 62 minutes.
Dark horse 🐴: Watch out for Iga Swiatek. The 18-year-old was set to play Aryna Sabalenka in the first round but now will play Vekic, a player she beat in Melbourne.
Semi-finalists 🏵️: It will be a surprise if the quarter housing Svitolina and Bencic holds up with both yet to find their form in 2020. I’ll take a punt with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who has looked sharp and re-energised so far this year. Kiki Bertens is my final semi-finalist who has quietly looked in superb form this year and comes in fresh off defending her title in St. Petersburg.
The Dubai-Doha swing is always unpredictable so expect *upsets* along the way. I’ve gone for Petra Kvitova as my champ.