DOHA, QATAR - The draw is out for the first Premier 5 event of the season at the Qatar Total Open, which is set to begin on Monday, February 12. Nine of the Top 10 are in the Doha field, where once again No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and No.2 Simona Halep will battle for the No.1 ranking.
Top eight seeds: No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, No.2 Simona Halep, No.3 Elina Svitolina, No.4 Garbiñe Muguruza, No.5 Karolina Pliskova, No.6 Jelena Ostapenko, No.7 Caroline Garcia, and No.8 Angelique Kerber.
Top half: Wozniacki, Svitolina, Ostapenko, Kerber.
Bottom half: Halep, Muguruza, Pliskova, Garcia.
Potential quarterfinals: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Garcia vs. Garbiñe Mugurua, and Karolina Pliskova vs. Simona Halep.
Last year's final: Karolina Pliskova d. Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-4.
Click here to see the full draw.
Storylines to watch:
Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep continue their duel for No.1.
Wozniacki won their duel for No.1 at the Australian Open, scoring a gritty 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win in the final to claim both the top ranking and her first major title. Halep will have an opportunity over the next two weeks to reclaim the top spot. The Romanian skipped the Middle East swing due to injury last year, while Wozniacki is defending points from back-to-back finals in Doha and Dubai.
Halep can retake the No.1 ranking in Doha but must make the quarterfinals to have a chance. If both Halep and Wozniacki advance to the quarterfinals then Halep will need to go one round further than the Dane to overtake her.
Halep has enjoyed some much-needed rest after her grueling Melbourne campaign, withdrawing from St. Petersburg due to the ankle injury she sustained over the fortnight. After a first-round bye, Halep will play either Ekaterina Makarova or Zhang Shuai, with Anastasia Sevastova or Katerina Siniakova potentially looming in the Round of 16.
Angelique Kerber looks to continue her astounding 2018 start.
Kerber was a point away - twice! - from advancing to the Australian Open final last month, losing a dramatic semifinal to Halep. That remains her only loss of the 2018 season so far. She began the year by scoring four wins at Hopman Cup and then rolling to her first title since the 2016 US Open, losing just two sets en route to the Sydney title.
Now back in the Top 10, Kerber has been drawn into Wozniacki's quarter and will open against either Sam Stosur or Irina Camelia Begu in the second round. She could face Johanna Konta in the Round of 16.
Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki could clash early.
Unseeded and looming, No.41 Sharapova was drawn into top-seed Wozniacki's section and the two could face in the Round of 16. Wozniacki and Sharapova have not faced off on a hard court since the 2014 WTA Finals.
Sharapova opens her tournament against a qualifier and would face either Magdalena Rybarikova or Fatma Al Nabhani in the second round. Wozniacki, who has a bye into the second round, will open against either Tatjana Maria or Carina Witthoeft. Navigate those opening two rounds and it will be Sharapova vs. Wozniacki for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Garbiñe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, and Johanna Konta look to get off the ground.
Three players looking to get their 2018 seasons off the ground are Garbiñe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, and Johanna Konta. Muguruza comes into Doha on the heels of announcing that Conchita Martinez has joined her team through the Miami Open. The Spaniard has had a sputtering start to her year after picking up a leg injury in Brisbane and bowing out in the second round of the Australian Open.
Similarly, Ostapenko (leg) and Konta (leg) also suffered injuries in the first month and have yet to build sustained momentum. Both women played in the Fed Cup zonal ties last week and perhaps the sustained string of matches helped boost their confidence heading into the Middle East swing.
Notable first-round matches: Julia Goerges vs. Lucie Safarova, Dominika Cibulkova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anett Kontaveit vs. Alizé Cornet, Madison Keys vs. Wang Qiang, Barbora Strycova vs. Aleksandra Krunic, Elise Mertens vs. Timea Babos, Petra Kvitova vs. Cagla Buyukakcay, Mona Barthel vs. Agnieszka Radwanska.