By Sports Reporter/Doha
After more than a month in Australia, the WTA tour turns to the Middle East, which kicks off with Qatar Total Open tomorrow.
The draw for the tournament was held virtually yesterday and threw up exciting contests with a likely early meeting between defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Garbine Muguruza of Spain. The main draw begins tomorrow at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex. The field is a 28-player singles and a 16-team doubles draw. Champions will be awarded 470 points.
The world number eight Sabalenka, seeded third, has a bye and will meet the winner of Muguruza and Russian Veronika Kudermetova’s opening round match. French Open champion Iga Swiatek has pulled out of the event, with the Pole saying she wanted to avoid injury after winning the second title of her career at the Adelaide International yesterday.
The $565,530 prize-money WTA 500 tournament has attracted four of the World’s top-ten players led by 2019 Wimbledon Open semi-finalist and World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Others on the cards for the 19th edition of the annual tournament are 2018 champion Petra Kvitova, 2017 champion Karolina Pliskova, three-time Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber of Germany, Belarussian Victoria Azarenka – twice winner in 2011 and 2012 and former world No. 1 — and Kiki Bertens, the 2016 French Open semi-finalist.
The 22-year-old Sabalenka had clinched the Falcon Trophy in 2020 defeating the two-time Grand Slam champion Kvitova in the final.
She had raced past the world No. 11 from the Czech Republic in straight sets to claim her sixth career title and the first to be won by her at any tournament outside of China. This time though she’s arrived having won the Australian Open doubles crown playing alongside Elise Mertens of Belgium. Last month, she also won her third straight tour title and 15th consecutive match beating Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2 in the Abu Dhabi Open final. She also won indoor tournaments in Ostrava and Linz at the end of last season.
“I’m happy to be here once again, and I look forward to a wonderful tournament. It’s always been a pleasure coming to Doha,” the Belarusian said on being in Qatar.
Svitolina, a former semi-finalist and always a fierce competitor in ‘windy’ Doha, would be looking for a good start. The top seed has a bye and will await the winner of Saisai Zheng (CHN) and Amanda Anisimova (USA) clash.
Fourth seed Kvitova will await the winner of the match between fifth-placed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and 2016 finalist Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Local favourite Ons Jabeur of Tunisa, who will be back at the Khalifa Complex after becoming the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam at the French Open in 2020. Speaking via video conference, she said, “Doha is a special venue for me. This tournament gives me extra motivation because I have lot of good memories here. I am practising here and It feels great,” the Tunisian – one the players affected by Australian Open lockdown, said.
Kerber will take on Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay in the opening round while seventh seeded Jennifer Brady of USA will play Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Sixth seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland was drawn to meet Madison keys of US in the first round while Greek Maria Sakkari will face the fast-rising Egyptian Mayar Sherif.
Tournament Director Saad al-Mohannadi welcomed the defending champion and tennis fraternity for Qatar Total Open 2021.
Seedings: 1. Elina Svitolina (UKR), 2. Karolina Pliskova (CZE), 3. Aryna Sabalenka (BLR), 4. Petra Kvitova (CZE), 5. Kiki Bertens (NED), 6. Belinda Bencic (SUI), 7. Jennifer Brady (USA), 8. Victoria Azarenka (BLR). cards
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