The next stop after Melbourne is the Middle East. The 19th edition of the WTA Qatar Open will host some of the finest female tennis players in the next six days.
As always here at LWOT, we predict all main draw matches on Day 1 in Doha. Four of the matches are in this article. In a second article, we have the other two Monday main draw matches, plus two top matchups from qualifiers.
WTA Qatar Open Day 1 Predictions
Jennifer Brady vs Anett Kontaveit
Head-to-head: Brady 0-1 Kontaveit
The overriding factor here is Brady’s fitness levels. Considering the tumultuous experience of being in hard quarantine and the exertion of playing in seven matches at the Australian Open, she probably earned the right to take a two-week rest. But it seems the American is playing on adrenaline right now, and that is almost invariably not a good thing. Playing Anett Kontaveit right off the bat is not what Brady would have wanted and this is an upset in the making.
Prediction: Kontaveit in 3
Jelena Ostapenko vs Kiki Bertens
Head-to-head: Ostapenko 2-2 Bertens
Kiki Bertens will play in her first match of the season after undergoing Achilles surgery. She hasn’t played since the 2020 French Open, a tournament in which she was involved in the infamous fracas with Sara Errani in the second round. The Italian certainly owes Bertens an apology for her theatrics.
Ostapenko is an error-prone machine, but this should be a fairly straightforward opening match against an opponent who is on the comeback trail.
Prediction: Ostapenko in 3
Angelique Kerber vs Cagla Buyukakcay
Head-to-head: first meeting
Angelique Kerber is the midst of a dwindling run of form in Grand Slams. It is now two straight first round exits at the Majors, after losing quite comprehensively to Bernarda Pera 6-0 6-4 at the Australian Open. But the signs were ominous. Kerber’s motivation was lacking. She confessed, had she known about the tough protocols of hard quarantine, she would not have travelled for the year’s first Grand Slam.
The German left-hander tends to save her best tennis for the Middle Eastern swing. As former finalist in Doha, Kerber has only lost two first round matches in nine visits. We shouldn’t expect that run to change against Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay who is making a rare WTA main draw appearance
Prediction: Kerber in 2
Victoria Azarenka vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Head-to-head: Azarenka 5-4 Kuznetsova
The last of the day’s action is a mouthwatering clash between two veterans: Victoria Azarenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova. For two players who have faced each other nine times before this, it will be a first meeting in five years. And remarkably it is Azarenka who has dominated their most recent matches (won the last four in straight sets), as Kuznetsova’s star power waned. Expect the two-time former champion to maintain that dominance.
Prediction: Azarenka in 2
Main Photo from Getty.