2015 WTA Doha Preview & Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a week full of surprises, the WTA reaches Mexico, and Qatar for the tournaments held in Acapulco and Doha.
Can Karolina Pliskova build on her good form?
The Qatar Total open was first established in 2001 due to the increasing popularity of women’s sport in the country. The Khalifa International Tennis Complex has also hosted the Season ending Championships from 2008 to 2010.
Previous champions include the likes of Justine Henin, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, as well as two-time winners Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. The defending champion is Simona Halep who will not return this year to defend her crown.
Qatar Total Open
Location: Doha, Qatar
Prize Money: $731,000
Date: February 23rd- February 28th 2015
Top 4 seeds who receive a first round bye (Ranking)
1. Petra Kvitova (3)
2. Simona Halep (4) *withdrawn*
3. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
4. Agnieszka Radwanska (8)
5. Ekaterina Makarova (9)
A strong draw with all the seeds being top 20 players, and some dangerous unseeded players to look out for. Unfortunately Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament, so Ekaterina Makarova is handed a BYE as the next highest seed, and Carla Suarez Navarro is now the final seed.
First round matches to watch
(9) Carla Suarez Navarro vs Garbine Muguruza
Looking through the draw this is one of the matches that really stands out to me. The ninth seed Carla Suarez Navarro faces doubles partner Garbine Muguruza in what should be a close contest between two friends. The Spanish pair met in Dubai in a close match where Muguruza came out on top from a set down. Muguruza played a lot of tennis last week, and suffered a close loss to fellow rising star Karolina Pliskova in the semi finals. Therefore it’s unknown where the 21 year old is at mentally and physically. Suarez Navarro has been a fairly constant top 20 player for a while now, and possesses a unique shot in the WTA, a one-handed backhand. This match-up is very hard to predict as they both know each other’s game, and playing a friend can often lead to awkward matches. Muguruza has the higher peak level, so if she is playing well she should blow Suarez Navarro off the court, but if Muguruza is tired and/or not in good form, expect the world number 13 to be too consistent for the youngster.
(8) Angelique Kerber vs (WC) Victoria Azarenka
A few years a go this was a match at the season ending championships. Fast forward to 2015, and these two players have both exited the top 10 and will meet in the opening round in Doha. In fact their last meeting came at the tour championships in 2012, which Azarenka came through in three tight sets. Kerber hasn’t beaten Azarenka in a straight tennis match with her only victory coming via a walkover. Azarenka’s struggles with injuries have seen her fall down the rankings, but she’s still hugely dangerous to any player in the world despite not being in the form that saw her reach the summit of the rankings. Kerber hasn’t shown her best form this year and that has seen her fall outside the top 10 for the first time in a while. So with all that in mind, I can easily see the number eight seed taking an early exit at the hands of the former world number one. Expect the Belarusian to use her return and precise ground strokes to move the German around the court, and see out a tight two set or three set victory.
Sam Stosur vs Lucie Safarova
We have quite the round one line-up In Doha, and this match between two experienced players is yet another one to watch. Stosur is 3-5 in 2015 if you count the Fed Cup, and has been unable to put together back to back victories this year. Oddly enough, one of those three victories came against Safarova in Sydney. Safarova played her best tournament of 2015 last week, reaching the quarter finals in Doha before falling to fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova. However, Stosur is Safarova’s pigeon with the head to head being 9-3 in favour of the world number 25. The Aussie has struggled to handle the powerful lefty strokes across court from the Czech, which plays the ball right into the weaker side of Stosur’s game. With that said, if Stosur brings the form which won her the US Open in 2011, she could easily claim her second straight victory over Safarova.
Top seed Petra Kvitova headlines a strong top half that could see the world number four face plenty of dangerous players. There are some potentially dangerous qualifiers who could be drawn into this section, but that is the least of the Wimbledon champion’s worries. Rising stars Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza find themselves drawn in this quarter, both of whom are capable of advancing very far in the tournament. After all, they met in the semi finals of Dubai last week, which Pliskova won in 3 close sets. The Spaniard’s form and fitness will be in question after that epic battle last week, so she’ll have to overcome them and her doubles partner Suarez Navarro if she is to set up a rematch with Pliskova.
Kvitova should make the quarter finals at least with a BYE to round two, where she shouldn’t face much trouble. I will play it safe and say Suarez Navarro overcomes a tired Muguruza and Pliskova to set up a quarter final with Kvitova. The Spaniard has the game to trouble big hitters with her crafty slice and good movement. Kvitova is perhaps the biggest enigma on tour. Her game is huge yet wildly inconsistent, making her matches very hard to predict.
Quarter number two features the two newest editions to the top 10, Ekaterina Makarova and Andrea Petkovic. Makarova gets an opening round BYE, but faces a tough round two against Stosur or Safarova. With the head to head so much in favour of the Czech it’s hard to look past her making round two and setting up a clash of the lefties. I believe Makarova is the better player at the moment and she’s definitely in the better form this year, so despite the 2-1 head to head in favour of Safarova, I will back the Russian to make the quarter finals. I believe Petkovic will be there waiting for Makarova at this stage. The German will rematch Zarina Diyas in round two, who she lost to in Dubai. However, I don’t see that upset happening again this week.
Caroline Wozniacki was bumped to second seed status with the withdrawal of Simona Halep, which meant she was moved to the bottom section of the draw. The Dane’s reward will be a potential round two clash with Alize Cornet who will face a qualifier in round one. Wozniacki hammered the French woman in straight sets last week and has a 6-1 head to head record against her, so expect a fairly easy ride to the quarter finals for the former world number one. Her quarter final opponent will likely be either Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka,or Elina Svitolina. The young Ukrainian was perhaps the person who benefited the most from Halep’s withdrawal, as she went from drawing Suarez Navarro to drawing a qualifier in round one. There are some dangerous qualifiers in the draw, but Svitolina is a consistent player and it’s hard to see her getting upset in round one.
Kerber or Azarenka in round two will be one of the most interesting matches of the tournament, with experience facing youth. I have a sneaky feeling Azarenka will beat Kerber, and use her experience to get past Svitolina and make the quarter finals. There she will meet Wozniacki in a rematch of their Australian Open encounter. Azarenka came out on top that day, but I believe the Dane will extract revenge for that loss in a three set match here.
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska is the projected semi final opponent of Caroline Wozniacki, but with a somewhat resurging Venus Williams, and dangerous players such as Sabine Lisicki, and Barbora Zahalova Strycova, it’s going to be tough for the Pole. Radwanska will receive a first round bye, before meeting Pennetta or Kuznetsova in round two. The Russian leads the head to head 5-1, but the Italian won their most recent meeting. Both players started the year fairly poorly, but Pennetta did well in Dubai so I will pick the Italian to take it. Radwanska leads the head to head 4-3 against her, but Pennetta got the better of the Pole in their two 2014 meetings. Despite that, Radwanska is overall the better player and should make the quarter finals here. There I believe she’ll face Venus Williams, who I predict will get past Casey Dellacqua and Zahalova Strycova. Venus Williams vs Radwanska will likely be a tight affair, with both looking to impose their different styles on the match. However, Venus isn’t in the form she showed at the beginning of the year so I feel Radwanska might just grind her down.
Kvitova def. Makarova in 3
Wozniacki def. Radwanska in 3
Wozniacki def. Kvitova in 3
I predicted Wozniacki last week, and it didn’t happen. But going through the draw, I simply have her winning this one. Either way, I feel the winner of the Azarenka-Wozniacki match will win the tournament.