The tour heads to the annual Middle East swing with majority of the top players making their first appearance on the tour since the Australian Open. Doha and Dubai switch places on the WTA calendar each year and this time round, it’s Doha who gets the Premier-tier event. As usual, Doha has attracted great names with six players from the world’s top ten participating in the tournaments. Let’s take a look at the draw…
Edit: Please note that after the preview had been published, Caroline Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia have withdrawn from the tournament. Please see the WTA website for the edited draw 😅
Top seeds’ profiles
 Simona Halep (No.3)
Player profile: Simona Halep may be the No.1 seed in Doha, but she isn’t the number one player in the world anymore after Naomi Osaka took over the top spot, with Halep losing in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Losing early in a Slam never will seem like a good result on paper, but in Halep’s situation, the Australian Open was a really decent tournament for the Romanian. Halep was dealt with an absolutely rotten draw, but handled it well to beat her US Open conquerer Kaia Kanepi, Hobart champion Sofia Kenin, legend Venus Williams, and eventually fell to 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. I felt gutted for Simona who played so well in the second and third sets and was so close from the win, but Serena’s serve was just way too good at times. It’s not going to be an easy stretch of tournaments for the next few months for Halep who has a ton of points to defend, so let’s see how she gets on the next couple of weeks…
Draw projections: The top four seeds in Doha all have first round byes, thus Halep’s first match of the week will be against Caroline Garcia or Lesia Tsurenko. Both potential opponents aren’t in promising form right now – Garcia has been in terrible form in 2019, though she finally managed one win in Fed Cup against Alison Van Uytvanck. Tsurenko started the season with a final run in Brisbane, but then suffered comprehensive defeats in both Melbourne and Fed Cup. In the last eight, Halep will likely meet Ashleigh Barty (just me or these two are always attracted in draws?).
Doha win-loss record: 11-3 (2014 champion)
 Karolina Pliskova (No.5)
Player profile: Karolina Pliskova has made an impressive start to the 2019 season with a second Brisbane title and her first Australian Open semifinal appearance. From the 2016 US Open, Pliskova has made it to the quarterfinals or better in seven of the last ten Slams! I really like how she played during the course of the Australian Open, hitting with controlled aggression and trying to come forward as much as possible. Most impressive was her performance against Garbine Muguruza, where she served supremely and amassed numbers of 23 winners and just three unforced errors! I really hope Pliskova can keep the aggressive mindset moving forward; if she does so I do think she can really achieve bigger things for the rest of the season.
Draw projections: Pliskova’s Doha opener will be against Elise Mertens or Katerina Siniakova – again these two haven’t had the greatest starts to the season, especially the latter. Both suffered defeats in their Fed Cup campaigns, and Siniakova is in truly terrible form at the moment, going 0-4 in 2019 thus far. Pliskova is seeded to face Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals.
Doha win-loss record: 7-4 (2017 champion)
 Angelique Kerber (No.6)
Player profile: It has been an up-and-down start to the season for Angelique Kerber; firstly, she started the year brightly at the Hopman Cup with wins over Garbine Muguruza, Alize Cornet, Ashleigh Barty and Belinda Bencic in singles. However, she then suffered comprehensive defeats in Sydney and Melbourne to Petra Kvitova and Danielle Collins respectively over the next two weeks. The loss to Collins was particularly disappointing as she looked completely flat and disinterested, with absolutely nothing in her game to stop the American. What has been the theme in all of Kerber’s matches this year is her poor first serve percentage. Without the first serve she immediately goes on the defense as the German’s second serve is obviously a very vulnerable shot; hopefully she has worked on the serve during the last few weeks after the AO.
Draw projections: Of all the top four seeds, Kerber has the worst draw of them all with her first opponent of the week likely Anett Kontaveit in the second round, a player she has never beaten in her career before. It doesn’t get easier from then on with No.7 seed Anastasija Sevastova a potential quarterfinal opponent, and then possibly nemesis Elina Svitolina in the semifinals!
Doha win-loss record: 7-9 (2014 F)
[4/WC] Elina Svitolina (No.6)
Player profile: It’s been a so-so start to the year for Elina Svitolina who crashed out in her season opener to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Brisbane, before making it to the quarterfinals of the AO, losing to eventual champion Osaka. On paper, making the quarterfinals of a Slam sounds decent, but I didn’t like how Svitolina was playing so passively in her last three matches (against Zhang Shuai, Madison Keys and Osaka). You could attribute it to a neck/shoulder injury she seemed to face throughout the fortnight, but then again since the French Open last year Svitolina has really regressed from her positive and aggressive play from the first half of 2018. Svitolina seems so vulnerable against the big hitters this year, but Doha’s usually a slower court than in Australia, so let’s see if she can start proving her mettle against the aggressive players.
Draw projections: Svitolina plays Mihaela Buzarnescu or Jelena Ostapenko in the second round, which is a rematch of their Doha battle a year back. Not sure Svitolina will be happy with this opener, as both players have beaten her before, but they are both in dire form this season! One player from the three will be projected to play Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.
Doha win-loss record: 2-4 (2018 3R)
 Kiki Bertens (No.8)
Player profile: Sometimes when I see a single digit number beside Kiki Bertens’ name in draws, I still get a shock – her conversion from a clay court specialist to an all-court specialist was one of the surprises of 2018, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see Bertens keeping up her form from last year so far. While she suffered a trio of tight three-set losses to Donna Vekic, Ashleigh Barty and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her first three tournaments of the season, Bertens rebounded back nicely to claim her third hard court WTA title in St.Petersburg, scoring wins over Pavlyuchenkova, Aryna Sabalenka and Vekic enroute. Her mental strength and ability to continue fighting even when she’s not playing at her best is what’s helping her to win all these matches, and I’m interested to see if Bertens can keep this going for the rest of the year.
Draw projections: Bertens starts off her Doha campaign against the enigmatic Camila Giorgi – the Italian player can be a force to reckon with on her day, but as she showed in Fed Cup, her inconsistent ways will always be part of her game. The winner of that match will play Ons Jabeur or 2015 champion Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.
Doha win-loss record: 0-1 (2017 1R)
[6/WC] Caroline Wozniacki (No.10)
Player profile: Caroline Wozniacki has opted to take a wildcard into Doha after a not so promising start to the 2019 season. Suffering a shock defeat to Bianca Andreescu in the quarterfinals of Auckland, Wozniacki picked up two wins in Melbourne before falling to Maria Sharapova in the third round. The Sharapova-Wozniacki rivalry added another match to its long list of quality matches as Sharapova found a way to overpower Wozniacki in three sets. In the past when the Dane have won their matches, she always has been trying to come forward and play aggressively as much as possible, so I was a little disappointed to see how reactive and passive she was during the entire match.
Draw projections: The wildcard will play a qualifier in the first round, before Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round – a battle between two tacticians on the court!
Doha win-loss record: 19-9 (2011, 2017 F)
 Anastasija Sevastova (No.12)
Player profile: Anastasija Sevastova has been creeping in into all my tournament previews for the Premier events as a seed since the back-end of last year, which just shows how good she’s playing of late. Sevastova has the game to upset and frustrate most on her day, but mental fragility and attitude is still her biggest opponent in matches. Then again, losing to Osaka twice in Brisbane and Melbourne in the quarterfinals and the round of 16 is not disappointing at all, so it’s safe to say that she’s been playing pretty well in 2019 thus far.
Draw projections: First up, Sevastova will meet Julia Goerges – the pair have a colourful head-to-head which the latter leads, 5-4. A little surprised to see Goerges unseeded and floating in this draw! The winner of that will play Barbora Strycova or the perpetual Doha wildcard, Fatma Al Nabhani in the next round.
Doha win-loss record: 4-3 (2018 3R)
 Ashleigh Barty (No.13)
Player profile: Ashleigh Barty is ever so close to creeping into the world’s top ten after a great three weeks in Australia where she reached the final of Sydney and the quarterfinals in Melbourne, losing out to Petra Kvitova in both events. Barty is one of the most complete players on the tour but what’s lacking is just the belief and mental toughness against the top players – up a set 6-1 against Kvitova in Sydney, she was unable to keep up with the Czech in the next two sets and eventually lost her second straight Sydney final. Up 4-0 in the third set against Maria Sharapova at AO, she was so close from losing the entire plot, before she barely managed to find some first serves to edge past the Russian eventually. Time though is still on the young Australia’s side and the good start to the season will definitely provide her with buckets of confidence. Having skipped the Middle East swing last year, this is a golden opportunity for Barty to finally make her way into the top ten of the rankings.
Draw projections: Barty kicks off her week against Petra Martic which could be fun considering both players have very similar games – Barty though just possesses a little more power than the Croatian though. Nevertheless, it’s still a dangerous draw considering Barty will need to travel from Asheville all the way to the Middle East! The other two players in Barty’s section are both qualifiers.
Doha win-loss record: First appearance
Doha Final Prediction: Simona Halep d. Kiki Bertens
Thanks for reading! Please check out my Doha predictions here or at the top of the page!