The first week of the two week-long Middle East swing on the WTA calendar is ending soon, and the second week is arriving soon with the smaller Premier event tournament in Dubai. The likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams have opted to skip the Dubai Championships, while others like Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova have withdrawn due to injury. Still, it’s a pretty good draw and in fact, a really good one with seven of the world’s top 10 entered into Dubai. Let’s take a look at the draw…
Top seeds’ profiles
 Elina Svitolina (No.3)
Player profile: Elina Svitolina returns to the Dubai Championships in which started her meteoric rise up the rankings into the world’s elite last year. Ranked then No.13, she beat then-No.1 Angelique Kerber in the semifinals, and Caroline Wozniacki in the final to claim her biggest title of her career. This was a springboard to her impressive 2017, where she went on to claim three more titles and reach her career-high ranking of No.3. The beginning of the new season was equally impressive, nicking her 10th WTA title in Brisbane. However she has not been able to continue that form since then, bowing out in the quarterfinals in the Australian Open to Elise Mertens and in Doha, the third round to Petra Kvitova. Losing to those two isn’t too bad on paper, but to back up the points she earned last year will be a difficult prospect if she continues her passive ways in her last two losses.
Draw projections: Dubai has been a happy hunting ground for Svitolina and as the top seed, she is guaranteed a spot in the second round with a bye. Her first match here will be against Kiki Bertens or a qualifier. Her quarterfinal opponent will definitely be a tougher prospect with Kvitova, Anett Kontaveit, Naomi Osaka or No.8 seed Kristina Mladenovic all in with a chance.
Dubai win-loss record: 9-2 (2017 champion)
 Garbine Muguruza (No.4)
Player profile: As mentioned in my previous tournament preview, Garbine Muguruza endured a disappointing start to 2018, but the addition of Conchita Martinez in her team has immediately bore results with a run to the Doha final. Muguruza beat hard-hitters in Duan Ying-Ying, Sorana Cirstea, her best win of the year thus far against Caroline Garcia, and a walkover from Simona Halep was her route to the finals. Making back-to-back deep runs in Premier tournaments is a rarity, thus I do think the Spaniard will win many matches in Dubai. She may prove me wrong though…
Draw projections: Garbine will start her Dubai campaign against Catherine Bellis or Elise Mertens, two young stars that can cause a lot of problems for top players. Muguruza is seeded to face Caroline Garcia in the quarters, but Lucie Safarova and Anastasija Sevastova are possible opponents as well.
Dubai win-loss record: 4-3 (2015 SF)
 Karolina Pliskova (No.5)
Player profile: Karolina Pliskova has made an unspectacular but solid start to the season. Semifinals in Brisbane and quarterfinals in the Australian Open were nice, but a third round loss to Catherine Bellis in Doha was slightly shocking, having hit 53 unforced errors and eight double faults, however a stomach illness that derailed her campaign in Fed Cup can be contributed to the lethargic loss. Pliskova definitely has happy memories in Dubai, having reached the final here in 2015, and will look to use that to gain back some of her form before the Premier Mandatory events in March.
Draw projections: Pliskova will likely face Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round, and Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. These two are very tricky opponents for the Czech, who has largely stumbled against counter-punchers of late.
Dubai win-loss record: 5-5 (2015 F)
 Jelena Ostapenko (No.6)
Player profile: Jelena Ostapenko definitely hasn’t had a positive start to the season and this has continued into Doha when she suffered a shock (wasn’t too shocking for me) exit against Mihaela Buzarnescu, losing 6-1 6-3. In six tournaments, Ostapenko has only managed to notch five wins, and hasn’t been able to reach a quarterfinal this year thus far. She has managed to find some success on the doubles circuit though, reaching the final in Doha with partner Gabriela Dabrowski. We have seen many cases of players translating their doubles success to the singles court, mostly recently Kristina Mladenovic ending her 15-match losing streak in singles after winning the Australian Open doubles title. Will Ostapenko start to find her singles form in Dubai as well?
Draw projections: Ostapenko will play either Elena Vesnina or Peng Shuai – both players are in really bad form this year, in fact even worse than Ostapenko. Vesnina has only won two matches in four events, while Peng hasn’t won a match in 2018. The Latvian’s projected opponent is Johanna Konta, but she isn’t in great form either. The third quarter of this draw is wide open.
Dubai win-loss record: 1-2 (2017 R1)
 Caroline Garcia (No.7)
Player profile: Caroline Garcia hasn’t begun the season well but she has seemed to right the ship in Doha. Garcia managed to get past Dominika Cibulkova and Anna Blinkova in tough matches, before pushing Garbine Muguruza to three sets but eventually fell in the quarterfinal stage. Garcia still hasn’t produced her A-level in her matches in 2018 though and will hope to produce some of that in Dubai, a place where she has made a deep run before, in 2015.
Draw projections: Garcia plays Lucie Safarova for her first match in Dubai, then either Ekaterina Makarova or Anastasija Sevastova in the second round. She is seeded to face Muguruza once again.
Dubai win-loss record: 5-4 (2016 SF)
 Angelique Kerber (No.8)
Player profile: Angelique Kerber will look to maintain her form in 2018 that has seen her return back into the world’s top 10 and sit at the No.3 spot in the Race to Singapore after a slightly disappointing campaign in Doha, where she lost in the quarterfinals to Caroline Wozniacki in a tight and thrilling three-setter. The stat for Angie is that her only two losses of the year has been against a World No.1 (Halep in AO, Woz in Doha)! Kerber hasn’t had the best results in Dubai in her career, but a semifinal appearance last year here may bring back some happy memories.
Draw projections: Kerber kicks off against Barbora Strycova – the German leads the head to head 6-1, and has never lost on hard courts to the Czech. The winner of that will play a qualifier in the second round, and Pliskova in the quarters. Judging that Kerber leads the head to head against Pliskova by 6-3, she seems to be the favourite to come through in the second quarter.
Dubai win-loss record: 4-6 (2017 SF)
 Johanna Konta (No.11)
Player profile: Johanna Konta was one of the most consistent players on hard courts in the first quarter of 2017, winning titles in Sydney and Miami, and although she has lost some of that form at the latter end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, the Brit seems to be finding the results once more. After a disappointing Australian Open campaign which saw her lost in the second round, Konta rebounded in Doha, reaching the quarterfinals where she lost to the in-form Kerber. Her week in Doha was particularly encouraging, making less unforced errors and being more consistent in her matches thus far. The fast courts in Dubai will likely suit Konta; will she be able to finally make a deep run after a torrid last few months?
Draw projections: Konta starts against the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; the Russian has lost her last five of seven matches. Daria Kasatkina or Agnieszka Radwanska will be awaiting the winner of that match for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Dubai win-loss record: First appearance
 Kristina Mladenovic (No.13)
Player profile: After enduring a 15-match losing streak in between July 2017 to January 2018, Kristina Mladenovic finally ended the streak in St.Petersburg, and even made it all the way to the finals, scoring huge wins over Dominika Cibulkova and Daria Kasatkina in the process. The final run was indeed not a fluke as Mladenovic brought the form into Fed Cup action, where she won three of her three matches to bring Team France into the semifinals. These singles results can be attributed to her doubles success, having won the Australian Open doubles title with Timea Babos in January. With Mladenovic finally awoken from her slump, will we see her continuing the results she had during the spring hard court swing and clay swing last year? Her road to defending all those points start in Dubai…
Draw projections: Mladenovic plays the hard-hitting Naomi Osaka who is certainly capable to spring an upset on the Frenchwoman. A hard-hitting player in Petra Kvitova or Anett Kontaveit awaits in the second round, with Svitolina the likely opponent in the last 8 for these players.
Dubai win-loss record: 3-3 (2017 3R)
Other unseeded players to watch
Lucie Safarova (No.31)
Player profile: Lucie Safarova had a really good year in 2017 – the Czech started last year ranked No.62, with her 2016 plagued by injuries and illneses, and had managed to bounce back really well, reaching seven quarterfinals in the process and moving back to the world’s top 35. In her bid to return to where she belongs – the top 10 this year, 2018 hasn’t started as well though, and that can be attributed to tough draws. Safarova drew Kerber in Sydney, Pliskova in AO for the third round, Goerges in Doha. Unfortunately, the draw has been unkind to her once again in Dubai!
Draw projections: As mentioned above, Safarova will play Garcia in round one. Definitely one of the best first rounders of the lot, I’m still finding it hard to pick who will win.
Dubai win-loss record: 7-7 (2015 SF)
Agnieszka Radwanska (No.33)
Player profile: Agnieszka Radwanska’s Doha campaign was encouraging yet frustrating – the Pole managed to win a titanic three-setter against Mona Barthel, before falling in another three-setter to Petra Kvitova. As much as the results were a little disappointing, we have seen a few instances of Peak Aga during the Doha tournament – perhaps Dubai is the place for Aga to spring a huge comeback on the WTA?
Draw projections: Radwanska will play Daria Kasatkina in a Beijing rematch from last year – Radwanska then was a set up before losing her way in a super frustrating loss in which was the story of her year. The winner of this match will play Konta or Pavlyuchenkova next.
Dubai win-loss record: 17-9 (2012 champion)
Tentative Final Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Johanna Konta
Dubai predictions will be out soon! Thank you for reading!