Several of the WTA Tour’s biggest stars will be in action this coming week at the Premier event in Dubai, with world number five Belinda Bencic looking to defend her title against a strong field at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Bencic defeated Petra Kvitova to win the title last year, and whilst the runner-up is not returning, the Swiss will be the fourth seed and one of the strongest contenders to take the title. The favourites may be top seed Simona Halep and second seed Karolina Pliskova, both in action for the first time since the Australian Open. Elina Svitolina, seeded third, rounds out the top four seeds.
After helping the US reach the Fed Cup Finals, Sofia Kenin will be seeded fifth in her return to the Tour after winning the Australian Open, with Aryna Sabalenka, and Petra Martic and Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza rounding up the top seeds. Meanwhile, former world number one Kim Clijsters will make her return to the tour after accepting a Wildcard. The Belgian will be competing for the first time since the 2012 US Open.
Kiki Bertens was originally seeded sixth, but has withdrawn from the tournament. This piece has been edited to take that into account.
Projected Q/F: (1st) Simona Halep vs (7th) Aryna Sabalenka
The top quarter predicts a quarterfinal match-up between two women who have already faced off this year, with Sabalenka having beaten Halep in Adelaide. However, the Belorussian lost early a few days later in Melbourne, and has a tricky opener against Maria Sakkari. The tricky Elise Mertens could wait for the winner in the next round.
Halep has the advantage of a first round bye here, though a second round against either Alison Riske or Ons Jabeur could prove an interesting early test. Looking ahead, the like of Mertens, Sakkari, or Sabalenka can all push the Romanian, though Halep looked sharp on her run to the last four in Melbourne.
Prediction: Halep def Sakkari
Projected Q/F: (3rd) Elina Svitolina vs (9th) Garbine Muguruza
After winning the 2018 WTA Finals, Svitolina has been going through some inconsistent form, though now faces qualifier or lucky loser in the first round. If she wins that, she faces either Anastasija Sevastova or Marketa Vondrousova. Neither of them are in particularly good form so far this season.
Perhaps the most interesting factor here is the return of Kim Clijsters. The four-time Grand Slam champion will be looking for a strong return on her second comeback, but has a tricky first round draw against Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard looked rejuvenated in Melbourne, and has a promising draw here, though Dayana Yastremska is a tricky second round encounter.
Prediction: Muguruza def Svitolina
Projected Q/F: (8th) Petra Martic vs (4th) Belinda Bencic
It hasn’t been a glittering start to 2020 for Martic, who had a career best season in 2019. The Croat should overcome a qualifier in the first round, though could face a tricky second round against Amanda Anisimova. The American will be looking to rebound after a first round exit in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Bencic has a particularly tricky draw. The Swiss starts against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, recently a quarterfinalist in Melbourne, and the winner could then face Anett Kontaveit. The Estonian crushed the fourth seed in Australia just a few weeks ago, and looks to have rediscovered her best form after a slight dip in 2019.
Prediction: Kontaveit def Anisimova
Projected Q/F: (5th) Sofia Kenin vs (2nd) Karolina Pliskova
There will be undoubtedly be huge expectation in Kenin in Dubai, with many looking for the American to impress after her maiden Slam title just two weeks ago. However, the American does not have an easy draw, with inform wildcard Elena Rybakina a tough first round obstacle. The winner could face Karolina Muchova after that.
In contrast, Pliskova has an ideal draw. The Czech receives a first round bye, and will then face a qualifier in the second round. After an early loss in Melbourne, Pliskova has the perfect draw to ease her way into the tournament, though is likely to face a tough test in the last eight.
Prediction: Pliskova def Rybakina
Halep def Muguruza
Kontaveit def Pliskova
Halep def Kontaveit