Doha: Austrian Dominic Thiem, who suddenly finds himself the top seed after the withdrawal of two-time defending champion and former World No.1 Novak Djokovic, will take on Russian Evgeny Donskoy in the first round of the Qatar Exxonmobil Open which starts at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on Monday.
Fast-improving Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the second seed will have a tricky first round match against promising Croat Borna Coric while the draw held in Doha on Saturday also pitted third seed Tomas Berdych against Jan Lennard Struff in what would be a battle of power hitters.
Another Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas will take on Argentina’s Guido Pella while elegant Frenchman Richard Gasquet will take on Dominican Republic’s Victor Estrella Burgos.
Promising Qatari Jabor Al Mutawa, who was given a wildcard will face a qualifier.
The withdrawal of Djokovic, owing to an elbow injury has definitely taken some shine off the tournament which is into its 26th edition.
Djokovic will surely be missed but we understand that his health and fitness come first. We wish him the best as he recovers from the injury while we hope to welcome him at the 2019 tournament said tournament director Karim Alami.
Feliciano Lopez, who meets fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round, said though he was disappointed with Djokovic’s absence, it gives other players a better chance to win.
“It’s very sad for the tournament and for all of us that he is not coming but at the same time, it’s true that we have a better chance to do something big here in Doha.
“But it’s really sad that he’s not coming. He’s the champion in the last two years, he’s a great player and I hope he’ll get better soon and be able to play in Australia,” said Lopez.