ATP Doha: Qatar ExxonMobil Open preview
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal pose after the 2016 Qatar ExxonMobil Open final in Doha/Photo courtesy: Reuters/Naseem Zeitoon

ATP Doha: Qatar ExxonMobil Open preview

The ATP World Tour season begins with a bang, as the top two players in the world begin their seasons at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.

thomas-cluck
Thomas Cluck

With the 2016 season now done and dusted, the 2017 ATP World Tour season commences in Doha at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, with six of the world's top 20 set to begin their year's in the Qatari capital. The world's top two players headline the field in Doha, with world number one and two-time Doha champion Andy Murray and world number two and defending champion Novak Djokovic looking to begin their seasons with a title here in Doha.

ATP Doha tournament overview

Serving as one of the first stops on the ATP World Tour season for 25 years now, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open celebrates its 25th anniversary with a stellar field here in Doha at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. The tournament serves as one of two ATP events in the Middle East along with Dubai.

The tournament's rich history of former champions includes 17-time Grand Slam champion and three-time Doha winner Roger Federer, 14-time major winner and 2014 champion Rafael Nadal, world number two and defending champion Novak Djokovic, two-time winner Stefan Edberg, and six-time Grand Slam champion and the inaugural Doha champion Boris Becker. Last year, then world number one Novak Djokovic eased past former champion Rafael Nadal in the final to claim his first Doha crown.

First quarter

The top quarter of the draw is headlined by world number one Andy Murray, joined by seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. The Brit begins his Doha campaign against dangerous Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, while seventh-seeded Kohlschreiber faces Tunisia's Malek Jaziri. For Murray, it's a fairly straightforward path to the semis, with Chardy the only real roadblock in this quarter. For Kohlschreiber, if the German can navigate past Jaziri, a tough second round opponent awaits as well, with either Paolo Lorenzi or Nicolas Almagro next for the seventh seed. 

Despite a potentially tough first round for Murray, expect the Brit to take care of business and advance to the quarterfinal, while Kohlschreiber falls at the hands of Italy's Lorenzi. Look for Murray to ease into the last four with a comfortable win over the Italian to book his place in the semifinals.

Semifinalist: Murray 

Andy Murray hits a backhand at the 2014 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha/Getty Images
Andy Murray hits a backhand at the 2014 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha/Getty Images

Second quarter

The second quarter here in Doha features loads of talent, with third seed and 2015 finalist Tomas Berdych and fifth seed and 2012 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga headlining this section. For Berdych, the Czech opens up against qualifier Alessandro Giannessi, while Tsonga faces a tougher proposition against Russian Andrey Kuznetsov. A potentially tough second round match awaits both players, with Berdych facing either Turkish wildcard Anil Yuksel or big-hitting Czech Jiri Vesely and Tsonga awaiting either Argentina's Facundo Bagnis or dangerous German Dustin Brown.

If both Berdych and Tsonga can navigate some tricky tests early on, fans could receive a very interesting quarterfinal between the two. The Czech and the Frenchman played last week in Abu Dhabi with Tsonga getting the better of a slightly hampered Berdych, so expect the 2012 champion to repeat that result and reach another semifinal here in Doha.

Semifinalist: Tsonga 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga poses with the 2012 Qatar ExxonMobil Open trophy in Doha/Getty Images
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga poses with the 2012 Qatar ExxonMobil Open trophy in Doha/Getty Images

Third quarter

The third quarter is headlined by fourth-seeded Belgian and last week's runner-up in Abu Dhabi David Goffin and six-foot-11 Croat Ivo Karlovic. Goffin begins his Doha campaign against Dutchman Robin Haase, while Karlovic faces Ukranian Illya Marchenko in his opener. Awaiting Goffin in the second round is a potentially dangerous matchup against either qualifier Vasek Pospisil or Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco. For Karlovic, the Croat has a potential second round matchup against local Qatari qualifier Mubarak Shannan Zayid or Russian rising star Karen Khachanov

For Karlovic, it's a fairly easy road to the last eight, while for Goffin, a potential match against Verdasco looms as a large threat to reaching the last eight. Despite the Spanish lefty's big game, Goffin's form in Abu Dhabi was sublime and if the Belgian fourth seed can continue that form here in Doha, he should reach the semifinals with relative ease.

Semifinalist: Goffin 

David Goffin hits a backhand at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi/Getty Images: Francois Nel
David Goffin hits a backhand at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi/Getty Images: Francois Nel

Fourth quarter

The bottom quarter here in Doha features the defending champion and world number two Novak Djokovic along with eighth-seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis. The Serb superstar opens against German Jan-Lennard Struff, while Baghdatis faces qualifier Radek Stepanek in his first round. For Djokovic, a comfortable second round opponent awaits, with either Horacio Zeballos or Florian Mayer next for the second seed. Baghdatis also has a very comfortable route to the quarterfinals, with either Belgian wildcard Arthur De Greef or Egyptian qualifier Mohamed Safwat awaiting the Cypriot in the second round.

Overall, this quarter serves as a very comfortable first few rounds for Djokovic and Baghdatis and expect the two to meet in the last eight, with the defending champion cruising into the semifinals.

Semifinalist: Djokovic 

Novak Djokovic hits a forehand at the 2016 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha/Getty Images: Karim Jaafar
Novak Djokovic hits a forehand at the 2016 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha/Getty Images: Karim Jaafar

Predictions:

Semifinals: Murray def. Tsonga, Djokovic def. Goffin

Final: Djokovic def. Murray

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