World No. 1, Ashleigh Barty begins her Doha campaign on Tuesday when she faces Germany's Laura Siegemund in the second round.
Barty vs Siegemund is live from Doha on Tuesday, 25 February from 5:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT
Barty is playing her first match since the Australian Open, and will attempt to maintain a fine start to the 2020 season, which has seen her put together a 9-2 record. The Australian was champion in Adelaide in her first tournament of 2020- her first title on home soil- while she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, before losing a very close contest against eventual champion, Sofia Kenin.
She had set points in both sets against Kenin, but the home favourite faltered at crucial stages, losing 7-6 7-5 to the American. Just over three weeks after that disappointing defeat, the world No. 1 is ready to return to action.
Barty was originally scheduled to play in Dubai last week, but she pulled out of that tournament citing a foot complaint. She’s recovered to take her spot in Doha, where she’s making her tournament debut.
“I feel good,” Barty said ahead of her Doha opener. “I needed to have an extra few days off just to let my body settle. We had a couple little niggles going on after the Australian Open”.
“I would have loved to have been able to play last week [in Dubai]. I’ve never played either of these tournaments, so it’s kind of a new thing for me”.
Since her return to the sport in 2016 after a two-year hiatus, Barty has been breaking new grounds in her career. She was absolutely sensational in 2019, winning her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, and adding trophies in Miami, Birmingham and the season-ending WTA Finals to a dazzling collection. She also became No. 1 for the first time, a position she maintained at the end of the season.
Barty has begun 2020 in similarly fine fashion, and will aim to keep it going in Doha, where she starts against Laura Siegemund on Tuesday.
Siegemund booked her meeting with Barty with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over Yaroslava Shvedova in the first round. Taking on an unranked opponent who was playing her first WTA singles match in just over two years, Siegemund was always likely to be too good for Shvedova, and so it proved as she eased to victory after 80 minutes.
The 31-year-old needed the qualifying rounds to get into the main draw, but she scaled that hurdle without losing a set, beating Qatar’s Mubaraka Al-Naimi 6-0 6-0, and Magdalena Frech 7-5 7-5. Siegemund is also playing for the first time since the Australian Open, where she was beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the second round.
It’s generally been a decent start to the year for Siegemund, who opened her season by reaching the quarter finals in Auckland, taking out Catherine McNally and Coco Gauff before losing to Serena Williams.
Formerly ranked 27th in the world, the German has been held back by injury problems through her career, and was ranked outside the top-100 at the start of last season. She struggled in the first half of 2019, failing to win consecutive tour-level matches in the first six months, but she did was better in the second half, reaching a semi-final in Bucharest and quarter finals in Hiroshima and Luxembourg to drag herself to a year-end ranking of 75th.
Can she register back-to-back wins for the second time in 2020 when she faces top seed, Barty for the first time on Tuesday?
It’s an intriguing match-up between two very clever players. Siegemund brings natural variety to the table, mixing things up with slices, drop shots and deft touches, but Barty is no slouch in the creativity department, and has carved her way to the top of the women’s game with a barrage of backhand slices, heavy serves and forehands, wonderful touch, and shrewd game management.
She may be a little cold at the start after her short break, but the world No. 1 should warm up as the contest progresses, and move past Siegemund to reach the third round.