Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2018. The Draw
It’s been a phenomenal 365 days for Dominic Thiem. Last season, he and Rafael Nadal were the only two on tour to reach the Round of 16 or greater at all four Slams. He beat Murray in Barcelona, Nadal in Rome, Djokovic at Roland Garros, and finished the year as a top-5 player for the first time. On Saturday, he snuck-in one more nugget of triumph before the end of the year: Becoming the top-seed in Doha.
Earlier this morning, Novak withdrew from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, still struggling with the elbow that ended his season after the Wimbledon Quarterfinals. As first alternate, Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos picked-up Novak’s spot in the draw. 2013 Doha Champion Richard Gasquet will have to contend with the 3-time Quito champ (Victor must have a heart the size of Rhino’s to excel at that altitude) during 1st-Round play this week. Estrella Burgos won their last hard-court match in Bogota four years ago.
Feliciano’s Forgiving Quarter
Florian Mayer, Viktor Troicki, Andreas Haider-Maurer and Qatar’s Wild Card Jabor Al Mutawa all drew qualifiers in the 1st-Round. The Haider-Maurer and Al Mutawa matches fall in Feliciano Lopez’s quarter. If Feli can make quick work of compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the 1st-Round, he could go deep.
Tough draw for the 2-seed
US Open Semifinalist and World #10 Pablo Carreno Busta starts his season battling Borna Coric of Croata. They haven’t played since the start of the 2015 season, where a 49th-ranked Carreno Busta blasted through a 90th-ranked Coric in straight sets. Coric earned three top-10 victories last year, including a win over World #1 Andy Murray in Madrid. This is a huge opportunity to start a season with another notch on his top-10 belt.
The Gael Monfils factor
The numbers don’t lie. Monfils plays tremendous tennis in Doha, and as 3-time Finalist “Wild Card,” he’s made the draw more treacherous for Tomas Berdych. A Finalist here in 2015 and Semifinalist the past two years, Tomas could face Monfils in a Round-2 thriller at Khalifa. Monfils has one win over Berdych; an insane 5-setter at Roland Garros back in 2013. Aside from that victory, he’s won only one set in their six other meetings.
Fernando’s pursuit of redemption
Novak Djokovic had no business winning last year’s title. Verdasco had Novak on the ropes in the Semifinals. Fernando won the first set 6-4, and at 4-all in the second, squandered three break opportunities to gain the edge. In the tie-break, Verdasco was two points away from victory, but missed on five match points, lost the set, and the match.
Fernando drew Dudi Sela in Round-1. They last met in the 2nd-Round of the 2016 Australian Open, where Sela won it in a 4th-set tie-break. Verdasco’s redemption will require hustle and smarts if he makes it past Sela, with ATP Next Gen Finalist Andrey Rublev and Pablo Carreno Busta lurking in his quarter.
Doubles Draw. The World #1’s are in town
Always great to have Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in Doha, but the top-seeds drew a dangerous pairing for Round-1. Doubles journeymen Marcin Matkowski and Aisam Qureshi have joined forces, and they get a stab at the World #1’s right out of the gate.
Something tells me Canada’s Daniel Nestor will still be competing at 55. The 45-year-old, 4-time Doha Finalist and 2-time Qatar ExxonMobil Open Doubles Champion has teamed with Philipp Oswalt of Austria, who was a finalist here in 2015 with Julian Knowle.
Grand Slam Finalists Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez reached the US Open Final in 2016. Well, the band’s back together, seeking four straight wins in Doha.
Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Oliver Marach of Austria are this year’s 2-seeds. Last year, they won Stockholm and reached four Finals in all, including the Wimbledon Championships. They finished 2017 by qualifying for the ATP Finals for the first time together.
The doubles draw runs deep this year in Doha.