WTA Qatar Total Open 2019: Halep leads field, Osaka withdraws, Svitolina and Wozniacki Accept Late Wild Cards

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Following a week of high octane tennis in the Fed Cup, the stars of WTA tour will return to action to light up the Middle Eastern city in Doha for the 2019 Qatar Total Open. This is the fourth Premier level event of 2019 and three former champions will be in the draw.

Simona Halep is the top seed following withdrawals by Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova – the two women who contested the women’s singles final at the Australian Open a fortnight ago. Osaka was forced to withdraw due to a back injury and will be replaced by Barbora Strycova in the draw while Kvitova elected not to defend her title following a busy start to the year.

Halep won the Qatar Open in 2014 and she will have a slightly more challenging task of repeating that feat. The likes of Caroline Garcia (albeit not in good form this year), Ashleigh Barty, and Elina Svitolina are all lurking in her half of the draw. The Romanian dropped to World No.3 in the rankings after the Australian Open, and is set to appoint Belgian Thierry Van Cleemput as her new coach. Van Cleemput who was a long-time coach of former Top 10 ATP player David Goffin, has been spotted in the practice sessions and matchday during Halep’s stay in Melbourne.

Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki have received wild cards. The pair are projected to meet in a mouthwatering quarterfinal match with Halep looming on the horizon. Wozniacki is a two-time runner-up in Doha, losing to Vera Zvonareva and Karolina Pliskova in 2011 and 2017, respectively.

In the bottom half of the draw, Angelique Kerber and 2017 Qatar champion Karolina Pliskova are the highest two seeds and could meet in the semifinals. Although that scenario may not materialize with the quality of opponents both players are likely to face. Kerber, along with the other three highest seeded players, receives a BYE in the first round and could play hard hitting Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the second round. Kontaveit has a winning 2-0 record against the German.

Pliskova has a potential quarterfinal meeting with in-form Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman won the indoor title in St Petersburg a week ago and has firmly established herself as a Top 10 player. Bertens also leads the head-to-head 3-2 winning their most recent hard court match in the Canadian Open last year.

Carla Suarrez Navarro, a champion in 2016 will open up against wildcard Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian  who became the first Arab woman to reach the finals of WTA tour event at the Kremlin Cup last year, could be a surprise package in Doha and she can expect full support from the locals.

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