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Kerber, Svitolina gear up for the 2019 Qatar Total Open challenge

Kerber, Svitolina gear up for the 2019 Qatar Total Open challenge

Vinay Nayudu
Doha
An absorbing draw and the windy weather conditions prevailing in Doha provide for a challenging 17th edition of the Qatar Total Open which will swing into big action with Oman’s Fatma al Nabhani taking on Czech Barbora Strycova on Monday night.
It will, however, be preceded by the keen final qualifying rounds action in the afternoon.
With the top four seeds led by World No. 3 Simona Halep – a winner here in 2014, and World No. 5 Karolina Pliskova (champion in 2017) scheduled to play from Tuesday, the battle in only expected to heat up.
As a pre-cursor on Sunday, Halep overcame Pliskova in a Fed Cup classic in Ostrava. The former World No. 1 won after two hours and 37 minutes to put Romania a win away from ousting the defending champions Czech Republic.
Two of Latvia’s players – Anastasija Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko (finalist in 2016) – who will also be action in Qatar, also served reminders as they took their nation past Slovakia to the World Group in the Fed Cup for the first time.
All the four will soon be making a dash to Doha.
Given that there are twelve out of world’s top-20 at the $916,131 Qatar Total Open 2019 show, no one seems to be sure about what the next six days have in store for them at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex.
Former World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, who lost in the final to Halep in 2014, has been the first to arrive in Doha as she seeks to erase the memory of her fourth-round loss to American Danielle Collins at the Australian Open.
“It’s nice to being back here. I came a little bit earlier to get ready for this tournament and to get used to the courts, to the weather, conditions and everything,” said the 31-year-old German.
She seemed happy to have acclimatized saying, “It’s different playing during the day and night in Doha as conditions can change quickly.”
Interestingly, there was benign sunshine as she spoke during the afternoon and by the evening gusty winds swirled in.
Kerber, however, would be more concerned about the path ahead than the weather.
“It’s a tough draw. There are a lot of players here,” she said, adding, “But this is a challenge, and I’m always looking forward to coming here.”
Also underlining the toughness of competition in Doha was World No. 7 Elina Svitolina.
A wildcard replacement for Naomi Osaka, the fourth-seeded Ukrainian, said she changed her mind about playing in Doha after initially deciding she needed more rest after Australia where she struggled with a shoulder and neck injury.
But the 24-year-old said she was ready. “This tournament, you know, here is always tough. Everyone wants to play, and everyone wants to play well. That’s why it makes it not easy at all,” she said.
Svitolina hasn’t progressed beyond the third round here as yet, but she showed great form at the year’s first Grand Slam in Melbourne and can topple the applecart of many.
Among the who’s who in the 32-player list is another former World No.1 and Grand Slam champion Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane, now No.10, accepted a wild card and is another contender for the title. She had finished as the runner-up to Pliskova in 2017.
Also expected to shake up and surprise the mix are Dutch Kiki Bertens (World No. 8) and Australian Ashleigh Barty (World No. 13).
All in all it should be an exciting tournament and the fans would love to be there on each of the six days at the Khalifa Complex.Strong field, weather make
for a fascinating six-day show at the Khalifa

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