What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the headline read: “Doha: Kerber’s crummy draw.” In 2015, Angelique arrived in Doha as the #8-seed and drew wild-card Victoria Azarenka in the first round. That was “all she wrote” for the German. Vika rattled Kerber’s cage early and delivered a dominant first-round win 6-0, 6-3 en route to the final.
2015 started to suck.
Angelique would fall early at both Indian Wells and Miami, but found her legs on clay in Charleston. She beat Madison Keys to earn her fourth career title. By the end of the year, she’d earned three more: Stuttgart, Birmingham and Stanford. She reached the Final in Hong Kong and qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore as the #7 player in the world.
Still, she couldn’t beat Vika. Azarenka took her out in the 3rd-Round of the US Open, then walked all over her again last month in the Brisbane Final. Despite great results and a climbing rank, the Belarussian was her Kilimanjaro.
Fast forward to today.
This week, Angelique enters Doha as the World #2 after winning her first career Grand Slam title by defeating Serena Williams in the Australian Open Final…an epic accomplishment punctuated by an enormous achievement: She finally delivered her first win over Azarenka to reach Melbourne’s Semifinals, and eventually the Final.
Confidence. Momentum. Earned entitlement. Belonging. So it seems…
With the strength of the Doha Draw this week, and the lack of a dominant threat (Serena Williams), we’ll see if this year’s top-seed can solidify that momentum, that confidence, that entitlement – and earn the wider fan-base that her remarkable results demand.
WTA parity? 10 individual tour events so far in 2016 & there’ll be 10 different champions & 19 different finalists. Only Kerber has 2 finals
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 19, 2016
Truth from Chris Clarey.
The Draw Ceremony – Four Seasons Hotel
“Really? Really? REALLY?” — Those were the three words I heard from Genie Bouchard as she approached the stage at the draw ceremony tonight. With her introduction, I mentioned that she’d been ranked as high as #5 in the world, was a Finalist last month in Hobart, and enters the tournament as a wild card, continuing her recovery from concussion. After seeing her new buzzed “do” in person, I may have also mentioned that we share the same stylist.
If you don’t know, I’m as bald as a baboon’s ass…although, from Genie’s perspective, remove the “as bald as” from that sentence and you have an accurate description. REALLY?
Oman’s Fatma Al Nabhani (wild card) and defending champion Lucie Safarova also joined us for the draw. Fatma earned five ITF Women’s’ Circuit Singles titles last year alone and drew a qualifier in the first round.
Like Angelique, Lucie Safarova will have a bye in Round-1, then face the winner of Hradecka vs. Buyukakcay. Tough tests abound for Lucie with Radwanska in her quarter, and Halep and Suarez Navarro in her half. This is Safarova’s first event of 2016, returning from injury and last year’s wicked bacterial infection that led to unbearable joint pain.
RESULTS. Qatar Total Open 2016. Qualifying First Round.
 K. Flipkens (BEL) d Y. Wang (CHN) 67(4) 76(5) 64
 K. Bondarenko (UKR) d M. Martínez Sánchez (ESP) 76(0) 36 63
 A. Konjuh (CRO) d O. Savchuk (UKR) 62 63
 Q. Wang (CHN) d [WC] L. Pous-Tio (ESP) 63 62
 A. Sevastova (LAT) d D. Hantuchova (SVK) 64 62
 N. Broady (GBR) d M. Zanevska (UKR) 63 75
 A. Sasnovich (BLR) d T. Majeric (SLO) 16 64 63
A. Hlavackova (CZE) d  M. Linette (POL) 76(2) 36 64
 E. Rodina (RUS) d M. Melnikova (RUS) 63 64
 D. Vekic (CRO) d K. Zhang (CHN) 75 46 75
 K. Siniakova (CZE) d V. Dushevina (RUS) 63 46 60
 S. Voegele (SUI) d B. Krejcikova (CZE) 63 62
J. Cepelova (SVK) d  K. Koukalova (CZE) 63 60
 S. Karatantcheva (BUL) d [WC] O. Mourad (QAT) 60 60
 E. Vesnina (RUS) d O. Jabeur (TUN) 64 61
 Y. Duan (CHN) d Y. Xu (CHN) 61 61