Doha, Qatar: Top-seed Simona Halep, second seed Karolina Pliskova, third seed Angelique Kerber and fourth seed Elina Svitolina all got byes as the Qatar Total Open draw was released on Saturday.
While Halep is braced for a meeting with Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in the second round, Svitolina could be facing a tricky opponent in former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who won the doubles title in Doha last year.
The Latvian, who reached the final in Doha in 2016, where she finished second best to Carla Suarez Navarro, will again take on Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first round. Ostapenko had cruised past the Romanian in the first round last year and is expected to do the same again.
Suarez Navarro, meanwhile, will take on Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the first round.
Oman’s Fatma Al Nabhani will play Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. Strykova had beaten Fatma in straight sets in the round of 32 in 2017 and the Omani said she hoped to do better this time.
“Again we are going to play each other,” wondered Fatma. This year I feel much better. I have had some good results in 2018 and at the start of this season as well. I have beaten some good players who have better rankings than me. So I feel I am ready and hopefully, we will have a good match."
“It’s one of the best fields in the premier event you could get. And everybody is just playing great tennis,” said Germany’s Julia Goerges, who takes on Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in the first round.
“Every single round is tough and it doesn't matter who you face. It doesn’t matter if you are seeded or not seeded every sing one can produce great tennis,” said the 31-year-old.
Qatar Tennis Federation Secretary General Tariq Darwish said he was happy to have so many top names in the tournament.
“We are all ready to host a great tournament,” said Darwish. “We are proud that we have six players from the top 10 in the world, we have three former champions, and we have plenty of players from the top 20 as well. I think we will have a great tournament this week.”