Qatar Open news: Aryna Sabalenka has first round bye but danger lurks

Aryna Sabalenka in action

World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka is at the top of the Qatar Open draw as the No 1 seed and along with the other top seeds will enjoy a bye into the second round.

Sabalenka will meet either Liudmila Samsonova or the Australian Open quarterfinalist Alizé Cornet in the second round.

The other seeds in the top quarter are Poland’s Iga Swiatek, No 11 seed Elena Rybakina, and Angelique Kerber.

Kerber was the 2014 Doha runner-up, but will meet this week’s Dubai quarterfinalist Jil Teichmann in a tough first-round tie.

Former Qatar Open winner Vera Zvonareva received a wildcard and is also in the top quarter, where she will play Alison van Uytvanck.

Spain’s Paula Badosa, seeded third, has a tricky second-round clash against either Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic or rising star Clara Tauson.

Greek No 1 Maria Sakkari is at the other end of the second quarter.

Sakkari will take on the winner of the opener between 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and Ann Li.

Coco Gauff is seeded 14th and takes on compatriot Shelby Rogers with a potential meeting with unseeded former World No 1 Simona Halep lurking in the second round.

Halep will face wildcard Caroline Garcia in the first round.

No 4 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and No 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia head up an equally quality-packed third quarter, which also features No 10 seed Elina Svitolina and No 16 seed Elise Mertens.

The 2019 Qatar Open winner Mertens will meet Jasmine Paolini in this year’s opening round with the winner potentially going on to meet defending champion Kvitova.

Kvitova has twice won the Doha title in 2018 and last year, and along with her 2020 runner-up showing has an impressive record at the Qatar Open.

Kvitova will face off against Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round. Spicing up that encounter is the fact that Begu beat Kvitova in St Petersburg last week.

The bottom quarter is anchored by second seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and also features No 5 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain.

Muguruza is a two-time Doha finalist, who has twice fallen to Kvitova in the championship match in both 2018 and last year.

Victoria Azarenka is also in lower quarter, as she seeks her third Doha title. She will play Yulia Putintseva in the first round.

Also in the bottom quarter is red-hot Jelena Ostapenko, who made it all the way to the Doha final in 2016.

Ostapenko, a finalist in the Dubai Tennis Championships, will play a qualifier in her Doha opener, and she could meet surging Amanda Anisimova, who must also wait to learn her opponent, in the second round.