World No.2 Angelique Kerber headlines the first leg of the Middle East Swing; can the German reclaim the top spot from Serena Williams? This and more on wtatennis.com.
WTA Staff
February 8, 2017

DOHA, Qatar - The WTA tour turns from a thrilling Aussie summer to a compelling fortnight in the Middle East, as US Open champion Angelique Kerber and runner-up Karolina Pliskova are the Top 2 seeds at the upcoming Qatar Total Open.

What do you need to know about the first leg of the Middle East Swing?

1. The 2017 Doha winner will join an illustrious list of champions.
With defending champion Carla Suárez Navarro forced to withdraw due to injury, the draw guarantees a new champion from the field of 28 women. Starting in 2001, Qatar Total Open's honor roll boasts seven players who won - or went on to win - Grand Slam titles, and five World No.1s.

The women who win in the Middle East have also been able to count their Doha trophy as one of many in excellent seasons; check out this infographic tracking how the former champions fared during their title-winning years after lifting the trophy:

Qatar Total Open

2. Kerber begins her quest to reclaim No.1.
Kerber fell from the top spot after Serena Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, but all is not lost for the German. Should she reach the final in Doha, she could return to No.1 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she'd also have to reach the final. With a bye in the first round, the 2014 runner-up will open against either Irina-Camelia Begu or Daria Kasatkina, who upset her at the Apia International Sydney.

3. Pliskova rides Fed Cup victories into Doha.
Pilskova began 2017 riding a nine-match winning streak through the Brisbane International and into the quarterfinals in Melbourne. The Czech shook off the surprise loss to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni with a dominating display over Fed Cup weekend, where she earned wins over Lara Arruabarrena and, most impressively, a 60-minute romp past reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza. Seeded second in Doha, Pliskova opens against either a qualifier or Caroline Garcia.

4. Can Cibulkova shake off Aussie disappointment?
Dominika Cibulkova ended 2016 on a career-high, winning the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, but the World No.5 fell before the second week in Australia to an inspired Ekaterina Makarova. Fresh off a run to the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, the Slovak is the No.3 seed in Doha, and will begin her week against either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or a qualifier, with No.8 seed Barbora Strycova looming in the last eight.

5. Will Wozniacki renew her rivalry with Radwanska in Doha?
The Asian Swing was dominated by the head-to-head between Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki. The resurgent Dane upset Radwanska en route to the Toray Pan Pacific Open title but the Pole got the better of Wozniacki in Wuhan and Beijing. Should the former No.1 beat Kiki Bertens, she'll face the No.4 seed in the second round.

6. Muguruza aims for Fed Cup revenge.
Muguruza shakes off a tough defeat against Pliskova and has a chance to avange the loss in Doha, as they're projected to meet in the quarterfinals. Standing in her way is wildcard Cagla Buyukakcay, who made her WTA breakthrough at this event last year - upsetting Lucie Safarova en route to the third round.

7. Fed Cup heroes face off.
After a long Fed Cup weekend, plenty of players will aim to take that momentum into the Middle East. One of the must-watch first rounds includes Yulia Putintseva, who reached her first WTA final in St. Petersburg and helped Kazakhstan into World Group II Play-Offs, and No.7 seed Timea Bacsinszky, who led Switzerland into the World Group I semifinals.

8. Hingis unveils new partnership in doubles.
Martina Hingis began the 2017 season continuing her partnership with CoCo Vandeweghe, but the Swiss Miss comes to Doha with Chan Yung-Jan as top seeds. Chan made two straight WTA Finals with sister Hao-Ching, and can certainly fulfill the power dynamic the cerebral Swiss requires in a doubles partner. The pair play their first match against Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson.

9. Hlavackova & Peng seek to maintain Melbourne momentum.
Speaking of Chan Hao-Ching, the Taiwanese doubles star begins her new partnership with Christina McHale. The pair will have their work cut out for them against No.3 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai. The Czech/Chinese duo renewed their partnership at the start of 2017 and roared into the Australian Open final, narrrowly falling to World No.1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova.

10. Mirza & Strycova soldier on.
Fresh off her excellent Fed Cup weekend - in which she pushed Muguruza to three sets and ousted Arruabarrena to clinch victory for the Czechs - Barbora Strycova reunites with Sania Mirza as the No.2 seeds in Doha. As they remain together, they face Raquel Atawo and Xu Yi-Fan, one of 2017's newer pairs, in the first round.