New week, new event… it’s time for the first Premier 5 event of the year as the tour heads to the Middle East swing. January was full of madness on the WTA, will this continue into February? Let’s see the draw for the Qatar Total Open in this preview…
Top seeds’ profiles
 Caroline Wozniacki (No.1)
Player profile: After a dream week at Melbourne where Caroline Wozniacki claimed her maiden Grand Slam title and finally put a stop to her ‘Slamless No.1’ labels, Wozniacki is set to make her 10th appearance at the Qatar Total Open. The Dane comes in as the No.1 player in the world, eight years since she made her debut at the top of the rankings in 2009. Wozniacki should still be on top of the world right now but in fact, she has already played another tournament after the Australian Open, in St.Petersburg, where she lost in the quarterfinals. Wozniacki made the final last year in Doha, losing out to Karolina Pliskova there.
Draw projections: The top 8 seeds have a bye, so Wozniacki has a safe passage into round 2 where she will play a German, either Tatjana Maria or Carina Witthoeft. Maria is in Fed Cup action in Belarus right now, while Witthoeft has just recovered from an injury just recently. Wozniacki could play Maria Sharapova in the third round, but the latter has to get past Magdalena Rybarikova first.
Doha win-loss record: 16-8 (2017 F)
 Simona Halep (No.2)
Player profile: Simona Halep’s participation in Qatar may be a little in doubt having withdrawn from Fed Cup action due to the aftereffects of dehydration during the Australian Open final, but she has been seen practicing a little at the Fed Cup location so I would guess she will likely be coming to Doha in a few days’ time. Halep has already claimed 11 wins in 2018, with the title in Shenzhen and the final in the Australian Open, losing to Wozniacki there. Halep is second on the win total list this year, coming in second best to Wozniacki, who sits at the top with 12 wins.
Draw projections: It seems like a comfortable route to the quarterfinals for Halep – the other seed in her section, Anastasija Sevastova, has lost her last four meetings against the Romanian. The only possible upset I can see is Zhang Shuai in the second round, having beaten Halep twice in 2016, but Zhang hasn’t had the greatest starts to the year thus far.
Doha win-loss record: 8-3 (2014 champion)
 Elina Svitolina (No.3)
Player profile: Elina Svitolina is sitting at a career-high ranking of No.3 in the world after claiming nine wins to the start the year, but many critics have still been criticising Svitolina due to her lack of results at the big events. Svitolina was rewarded with a dream draw at the Australian Open, having not needed to face a top 50 player enroute to the quarterfinals, but she came unstuck at the hands of Elise Mertens. Svitolina cited a hip injury for her lacking performance, but it was still relatively disappointing to see her running out of steam once again in a Grand Slam event. Svitolina will now head to the Middle East, in which was the country that started her impressive rise up her rankings, having won the Premier 5 event in Dubai last year.
Draw projections: Out of the top 4 seeds, Svitolina has arguably the toughest draw of them all. The other seeds in her quarter are the hard hitters; Jelena Ostapenko, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova, and the unseeded Agnieszka Radwanska, Mihaela Buzarnescu and Lucie Safarova are also lurking there.
Doha win-loss record: 1-3 (2015 2R)
 Garbine Muguruza (No.4)
Player profile: If Svitolina’s summer was disappointing to some, then Garbine Muguruza’s Australia would probably be ten times more disastrous to the critics. Muguruza failed to win back-to-back matches in the three tournaments she participated in, including two withdrawals in Brisbane and Sydney. In the Australian Open, Muguruza fell in the second round to Taiwanese Hsieh Su-Wei, in which it was super appalling to see her run out of ideas and fade away in such quick fashion. Hopefully Conchita Martinez will be able to solve some of these technical problems for Muguruza, who will be joining the Garbine camp for the next two months or so. Martinez partnered with Muguruza for last year’s Wimbledon, which was a super fruitful partnership, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep the results continuing as a team.
Draw projections: Muguruza plays Ons Jabeur or a qualifier first, then is seeded to meet Elise Mertens in the third round. Possible quarterfinal opponents are the French duo of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. This is a manageable draw for Muguruza, if she is able to summon a solid level this week a deep run in Doha is possible.
Doha win-loss record: 3-3 (2016 QF)
 Karolina Pliskova (No.5)
Player profile: Different year, but once again it was the same counter-punchers that Karolina Pliskova came undone at the hands of in her two tournaments of the season. Pliskova made the Brisbane semifinals and the Australian Open quarterfinals, losing to Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep respectively. Via the WTA website, Pliskova has now made at least the quarterfinals in the last five of six slams. Pliskova has some history in Doha, having won the title here last year, beating Caroline Wozniacki in the showpiece. Her appearance here this year though may be in suspect having skipped the Fed Cup Saturday singles due to a stomach virus.
Draw projections: If Pliskova does play in Doha, she will likely see defending her title here as a tough task. Anett Kontaveit looms in the second round, having reached the second week of AO weeks ago. The Estonian has a big game that can hit past any player including Pliskova; other than her inability to close out matches this is a potential upset alert. Pliskova could play another big hitter in Madison Keys next; the American first has a repeat match-up in Wang Qiang, who she beat at the AO in two sets. The winner of this huge section will likely face Halep in the quarters.
Doha win-loss record: 6-3 (2017 champion)
 Jelena Ostapenko (No.6)
Player profile: It has been a horrific start to the year for Jelena Ostapenko, who in five events this year has gathered a disappointing 5-5 win-loss record. In the Australian Open, Ostapenko fell in the Baltic battle to Anett Kontaveit in the third round, while other WTA results hasn’t been too promising either, falling in either the first or second rounds in Shenzhen, Sydney and St.Petersburg. Ostapenko just finished her Fed Cup campaign for Latvia, winning two out of three singles rubbers, with two of her opponents outside of the world’s top 150!
Draw projections: The draw hasn’t been kind to Ostapenko this week – she could play a pair of solid baseliners in Lesia Tsurenko or Buzarnescu in the second round. The in-form Julia Goerges looms in the round of 16; the German has now won her last 18 of 20 matches, however she needs to get past the likes of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, and both have beaten the German on multiple occasions before.
Doha win-loss record: 5-1 (2016 F)
 Caroline Garcia (No.7)
Player profile: Caroline Garcia is another top seed who hasn’t started the year pretty promising, with a back injury and inconsistencies derailing her first quarter of the season. Garcia has amassed a 3-3 win-loss record in her three events of the year, with a fourth round appearance in Melbourne her best result thus far. Garcia lost to Elena Rybarikova in St.Petersburg in a shocker in which she was largely misfiring throughout the match and even though she held a match point, she was unable to capitalise with her continual miscues and impatient groundstrokes. Hopefully we will get to see some of Garcia’s best tennis in Doha, as we have been unable to see it this year so far.
Draw projections: If based on Garcia’s level in St.Petersburg, it doesn’t seem like the Frenchwoman can get far in the draw. The dangerous floaters in Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be Garcia’s first round opponent of the week, before a match-up against Kristina Mladenovic in the third round is a possible prospect. Mladenovic seems to have found back her form in St.Petersburg, and her draw seems like a manageable one… I’m already getting the popcorn for a possible Gardenovic match!
Doha win-loss record: 6-5 (2017, 2013 2R)
 Angelique Kerber (No.9)
Player profile: The Kerbernator has well and truly rebounded from last year’s miseries as Angelique Kerber has just been on form this January, now sitting at No.3 in the Race to Singapore leaderboard. The German has won 14 of her 15 matches of the year, with her only loss coming to Simona Halep in a marathon three-setter and arguably, the best match of the season thus far. Kerber has a disappointing record in Doha, but with such a brilliant start to the year compared to the other top seeds, a huge run in Doha is certainly possible for Angie.
Draw projections: I think this is an OK draw for Angie. Samantha Stosur or Irina-Camelia Begu will be first opponent, while Johanna Konta is the other seed in her section. All these three have had unconvincing starts to the year, so I am anticipating a Wozniacki/Sharapova-Kerber quarterfinal match-up.
Doha win-loss record: 5-8 (2014 F)
Other notable players
Elise Mertens (No.20)
Player profile: Elise Mertens was one of the breakout stories of the Australian summer, having defended her title in Hobart and reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal in her young career. Mertens beat the likes of Daria Gavrilova, Alize Cornet and Svitolina, before falling to eventual champ Wozniacki. Mertens is now at a career-high ranking of No.20 and sooner or later, you will see her seeded in such kind of events.
Draw projections: Mertens plays a confident Timea Babos in the first round. Babos won the Australian Open doubles title with Kiki Mladenovic and the Taipei singles title over Kateryna Kozlova. Mertens is seeded to play Muguruza in round three, in which will be a tasty affair if that happens.
Doha win-loss record: First appearance
Agnieszka Radwanska (No.33)
Player profile: Agnieszka Radwanska hasn’t had the best Aussie summer, amassing a win-loss record of 6-3. The Pole reached quarterfinals in Auckland and Sydney, and the third round in the Australian Open. While her tennis still isn’t at her peak mode as we saw in 2015-2016, her fitness has been improved from 2017 and she just needs some more improvement with the groundstrokes and serve and she should be back into the elite sooner or later.
Draw projections: Radwanska drew Mona Barthel in the first round – Barthel possesses a huge game, so the upset is certainly a possibility, but I would guess Barthel’s inconsistencies would lead to a Radwanska win. The winner of this match will likely play Petra Kvitova next… bring on Kvitwanska please 😭😭😭
Doha win-loss record: 16-8 (SFs on five occasions)
Maria Sharapova (No.41)
Player profile: By her high standards I would guess Maria Sharapova would be a little unhappy with her first two tournaments of the season. In Shenzhen, she lost to Katerina Siniakova in the semis, and in the AO she was crushed by Angelique Kerber in straight sets. Although her comeback has been relatively successful, her tennis is still not at the level we have seen in the past, but I’m hoping that kind of tennis will be back soon as Peak Maria is definitely a joy to watch. Maybe in Doha…?
Draw projections: Sharapova will first play a qualifier, before as mentioned above Magdalena Rybarikova will be her likely second round opponent. Rybarikova last beat Sharapova in their recent encounter in Moscow, but Sharapova was visibly tired after her endeavours in Tianjin that meeting so I would guess this time it would be a Maria win. If she reaches the third round, Wozniacki will likely be waiting for her there. Sharapova leads the head to head 6-4…
Doha win-loss record: 12-1 (2008 champion)
Tenative Final Prediction: Julia Goerges d. Simona Halep
Doha predictions will be out soon! Tank you for reading!