Returning Iga Swiatek headlines mouthwatering Doha Open

Returning Iga Swiatek headlines mouthwatering Doha Open

Defending champion and world No 1 Iga Swiatek heads the Doha Open draw as the top seed.

The draw is crammed with top talent as seven of the top ten players in the world turning up.

Ons Jabeur is absent through injury and world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka has not played since her Australian Open triumph while runner-up Elena Rybakina is the other top ten absence.

Swiatek enjoys a bye into the second where she will face either Danielle Collins or a qualifier.

The WTA Rankings queen will also be playing her first match since a shock early exit from the Australian Open to eventual finalist Rybakina.

Swiatek certainly has no reason to be ashamed of that loss considering how well Rybakina played, however, her air of invincibility is fading just a little.

The Doha title will take some defending with the draw anchored by World No 4 Jessica Pegula who is a potential final opponent for Swiatek if she can repeat her 2022 run.

Seventh seed Belinda Bencic or former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka could be potential quarter-final opponents for Swiatek.

On a semi-final collision course with Swiatek, fourth seed Coco Gauff has a first-round bye, and will take on either Zhang Shuai or double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in her first match.

No 8 seed Veronika Kudermetova will face former Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round at the bottom of the upper half of the draw.  The winner will face either Liudmila Samsonova or former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the next round.

Caroline Garcia enjoys a first-round bye as she and fifth seed Maria Sakkari stud the third quarter.

Sakkari is set to face 2022 WTA Newcomer of the year Zheng Qinwen in the first round at the Doha Open.

American No 1 and second seed Jessica Pegula is at the bottom of the Doha Open draw and has a first-round bye along with the other top four seeds.

In Pegula’s opening match she will either take on Jelena Ostapenko, a past champion at Roland Garros, or fellow American Madison Keys in potential blockbuster matches.

Also in the bottom quarter is sixth seed and top-ranked Russian woman Daria Kasatkina. If Kasatkina can get beyond a qualifier she will play one of Paula Badosa or Beatriz Haddad Maia in a challenging but tantalizing round match.

The bottom quarter of the draw is certainly loaded and Pegula would do well to battle her way into the last four.

READ MORE: Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina ‘threats’ to Iga Swiatek, but John McEnroe hopes ‘politics won’t disturb Sabalenka’

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