The WTA Tour returns this week after a break for Fed Cup with the $2.4 million dollar prize fund Qatar Total Open.
This Premier 5 event is without both of last year’s finalists Vika Azarenka and Serena Williams, who have each pulled out with injury, but there are still seven top-10 players in Doha this week.
The tournament is played on a fairly pacy Plexicusion outdoor hard court and the speed will vary depending on the time of day, with conditions tending to be rather chilly at night this time of year in Doha.
The ATP event held in Doha in week one was quick, as Rafa Nadal had to be at his best to hold off some severe challenges, and players who take the ball on and utilise first strike tennis could well enjoy conditions here.
Mona Barthel 1.43 vs Annika Beck 2.70 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 12.35
German world number 64 Barthel should find conditions here in Doha to her liking and she certainly needs a boost after falling in the first round of Paris, where she won the tournament 12 months ago, and dropping 28 places in the rankings as a result.
She should have good memories of Doha too after crushing Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 here 12 months ago before falling to Caroline Wozniacki, but if the erratic 23-year-old does find her form she can be far too much for an essentially defensive-minded player like Beck to cope with.
That was the case in their first two meetings, which were too long ago to really be relevant when they meet at 12.35 UK time today, but it does show how a player like Barthel can punch holes in the resistance of her fellow German.
Much will depend on how Barthel plays as we know what we’ll get from Beck, which is making plenty of balls and grinding it out. Mona will need to be on one of her days when her radar is on and if she is the conditions will surely help her to hit through Beck.
The minus 3.5 games on Barthel is my selection in this one, with Mona needing a good week to avoid a further drop down the rankings and she has the right circumstances to begin that quest here in Doha.
Tsvetana Pironkova 1.80 vs Roberta Vinci 1.98 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.35
It’s worth taking a chance on Pironkova in this 15.35 UK time meeting with Vinci at a backable price of 1.80.
These are two players whose confidence levels must be varying wildly, with the Bulgarian enjoying a fabulous start to the season after winning her first title, while Vinci hasn’t won a singles match all year so far.
The quick conditions here will help Pironkova and her style of tennis and if she continues to display the level that she produced in the early weeks of this year and her opponent carries on as she has been this should be comfortable for Tsvetana.
Pironkova already has two straight sets wins under her belt from qualifying and the 0-3 head-to-head can be overlooked a little here given the massive improvement in the Bulgarian and the current decline of the Italian.
Elsewhere, I’m not sure I would trust the health of Venus Williams at 1.25 against the occasionally decent Petra Martic, but Flavia Pennetta looks a more solid odds-on shot over the awful Su-Wei Hsieh.
Back Barthel –3.5 games to beat Beck at 1.78
Back Pironkova to beat Vinci at 1.80