Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova in 2017 WTA Qatar Draw

The draw in Qatar features a fairly deep cast of women’s tennis talent, including the World No. 2 and the World No. 3.

Angelique Kerber will contest her first tournament since losing the World No. 1 ranking. The German did not enjoy success after getting to top spot as she went 0-7 for titles in all events she entered after ascending to top spot last fall. Time will tell if the demotion on tour will help her or not as she prepares for this week’s event in Qatar.

Kerber, despite losing the top ranking, enters this week’s WTA event as the top seed. She’ll enjoy a first-round bye in the event along with Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, and Agnieszka Radwanska. The tournament only has 28 entrants so having a first-round bye does make it a bit of a puddle jump for the top-four seeds. It’s only two match wins to the semifinals with Pliskova arguably holding the simplest draw.

The Czech player will face either Caroline Garcia or a qualifier in the round of sixteen. Either way that should be a win for the World No. 3. The seeded player closest to Pliskova in the draw is Garbine Muguruza, a potential quarterfinal opponent. However, the Spaniard’s best tennis still remains hidden from tour and it has since she won the French Open in 2016. Pliskova defeated Muguruza 6-2, 6-2 in a recently played Fed Cup match, one that helped the Czechs advance to the semifinals. If the two meet in Qatar it will surely be the Czech player that has the confidence at this point.

Accordingly, Pliskova has to like her chances of making the final four in Qatar, while all the other high seeds have a bit more to worry about. Kerber could face Timea Bacsinszky, a player who performed well in her recent Fed Cup matches. Three-seeded Cibulkova has not been sharp to start the season and her draw to the semifinals is shared with both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Strycova. Radwanska could face Caroline Wozniacki in the second round or even Kiki Bertens. Either way, the four seed would have a tough match with a shared draw to the semifinals with Elena Vesnina.

Wozniacki would have to be called the most dangerous non-seed. She’s 6-3 to start the season and hasn’t played since losing in the third round of Melbourne Park. That was a few weeks ago now and perhaps she’s better prepared for a deep run in a tournament at this point. Her results from the South Pacific region weren’t poor, however she certainly didn’t do anything head turning.

The final for Qatar takes place on February 18th. If the seeds hold up it would be Pliskova against Kerber. However, this tournament does look fairly wide open, especially on the top half of the draw.

Shane Lambert