A quartet of former No.1s headline the field at next week's Qatar Total Open, led by World No.3 and 2014 champion Simona Halep and World No.5 and 2017 champion Karolina Pliskova. With late wildcards going to Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki, this year's Premier event boasts six of the Top 10 in the field.
A semifinalist last year, Halep is the top seed, with Pliskova anchoring the bottom half of the draw as the No.2 seed. Angelique Kerber, who returns to action for the first time since the Australian Open, is the No.3 seed, with Elina Svitolina rounding out the Top 4 seeds. All four have byes into the second round, which should serve as a particular boost for Halep and Pliskova, who are coming off Fed Cup duties in Ostrava, Czech Republic over the weekend.
The top half of the draw features Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki, and Julia Goerges. The German moved into the No.8 seed position after Ashleigh Barty withdrew from the event with a left hip injury on Monday. While Goerges will play her first two rounds against either a qualifier or lucky loser, things could get tricky early for the three remaining seeds.
Halep, who comes into Doha with a heap of confidence after going 2-0 in Fed Cup play (including a tough three-set win over Pliskova), will open against either France's Fed Cup hero Caroline Garcia or Lesia Tsurenko.
Svitolina will open against either Jelena Ostapenko or Mihaela Buzarnescu, and Wozniacki opens against either a qualifier or lucky loser, to face either Hsieh Su-Wei or Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Ukrainian told reporters over the weekend that she is still recovering from the neck and shoulder issue that hampered her in Melbourne.
"It's slowly getting better," Svitolina told reporters at Sunday's All Access Hour. "It's a work in process, I would say."
"I didn't plan to come here. I thought I'd have some more rest. But I was ready, I think, a little bit earlier. I always remember coming here with good memories, so it was a decision last minute."
The bottom half of the draw features Pliskova, Kerber, St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy champion Kiki Bertens, and Anastasija Sevastova. Coming off her strong run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, Pliskova opens against either Elise Mertens or her Fed Cup teammate Katerina Siniakova. Pliskova is looking to extend the recent Czech domination in Doha, where the Czech Republic have accounted for three of the last four champions - Petra Kvitova (2018), Pliskova (2017), Lucie Safarova (2015).
Pliskova could face Bertens in the quarterfinals. The Dutchwoman opens against Camila Giorgi and would then face either Carla Suárez Navarro or Ons Jabeur. The Middle East swing is a big rankings opportunity for Bertens, who is eyeing her Top 5 debut. Ranked No.8, less than 200 points separate her from No.5 Pliskova and she has little to defend until Charleston.
No.3 seed Kerber is looking to set aside her Melbourne disappointment, which saw her bow out quietly to Danielle Collins in the Round of 16.
"I was not thinking too much about this match," Kerber told reporters at All Access Hour. "Then I flew back home. I had a few days off, and then I start to get ready, a few fitness days. Then I come here a little bit earlier to get ready for the tennis things, more or less, here we start."
Kerber could have a tough task in her opening around if Anett Kontaveit can get past her qualifier or lucky lower opponent in the first round. The Estonian is 2-0 against Kerber and has yet to lose a set to the German.
No.7 seed Sevastova, who has proven herself to be one of the toughest outs on hardcourts over the last 12 months, could be waiting for Kerber in the quarterfinals. The Latvian, who scored two good wins over the Fed Cup weekend, opens against a qualifier or lucky loser, and would face either Barbora Strycova or wildcard Fatma Al Nabhani in the second round.
Main draw play begins on Monday, February 11th.