The Qatar Open in Doha is one of three ATP 250 tournaments in this opening week of the 2013 tennis season. The tournament has seen recent winners such as Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer but this year the only top 5 representation comes from the current No.5 in David Ferrer. Rafael Nadal had been scheduled to participate her but illness has put paid to his return anytime soon.
While Nadal won’t be there, seven other Spaniards will be and two could face each other in the second round. David Ferrer and Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo must both defeat qualifiers in round one first though. Another Spaniard could join them from the qualifying draw in Daniel Munoz de la Nava while the Germans are represented well in the final round of qualifying with Daniel Brands, Dustin Brown and Tobias Kamke also hoping to qualify for the main draw. Ramirez-Hidalgo has actually defeated his more illustrious counterpart three times, although they have not faced off since 2006 with their first encounter dating back as far as 2001. Albert Ramos and Pablo Andujar round off the Spanish contingent in this quarter facing Paolo Lorenzi and Lukas Rosol respectively. While Ramos has struggled on hard courts for the most part, he has far more experience than his Italian counterpart who has won just twice on the surface at main tour level in two years. Sixth seed Andujar closed out the seed with seven straight losses on hard courts (indoor and outdoor) while Rosol ended it with a Challenger title. The Czech’s inconsistency has always been an issue but if he plays well, Andujar’s streak will most likely become eight.
Mikhail Youzhny has a great chance of improving on his quarter final appearance in 2012 (where he was defeated by Rafael Nadal) and will begin against the experienced Benjamin Becker. The German has failed to match the form is showed pre-2011 and spent much of the year on the Challenger Tour, picking up two titles along the way. 2010 winner Nikolay Davydenko still shows the odd spot of class but don’t count on him making waves here. He should be able to extend his dominant record over Victor Hanescu to 6-0. The Romanian is another who has had much of his success at Challenger and on clay, but when it comes to hard courts he struggles to get a win at the top level. Simone Bolelli taking on Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the first round would make you think this was a clay court tournament with the two players having played just three times on hard courts on the main tour in 2012 and didn’t pick up a victory between them. Bolelli at least had a handy record on the surface on the Challenger circuit, earning the Recanati title in his native Italy and should be favoured to progress to the next round. Feliciano Lopez rounds off the half which could see another all-Spanish affair if he can see of Lukasz Kubot. Lopez has defeated Kubot on each of the two occasions they have met and performed relatively well on hard courts last year, making it to the third round or better on four different occasions.
Fifth seed Jeremy Chardy will be thankful for his draw, opening up with a qualify and then facing the winner of the match between two wildcards. Egyptian Mohamed Safwat is ranked outside the top 400 while Jabor Al Mutawa of Qatar lost in the first round here 6-0 6-0 to Flavia Cipolla as a wildcard. After a year ruined by injuries, Gael Monfils will be relieved to open up against the other Qatari wildcard Mousa Zayed. The 17 year-old also received a double bagel in the 2012 tournament, to James Ward in the qualifying round. Fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber rounds off the quarter with an opening round tie against Ivan Dodig. 2012 saw the German achieve a new career high ranking and he still currently resides inside the top 20. After having the misfortune to draw Rafael Nadal in the opening round in his last appearance here, he will be relieved to face an opponent he has beaten 2 out of 3 times, including on hard courts at Delray Beach 2012. After a bad summer, Dodig returned to the Challenger Tour with fairly reasonable success making two semi finals late in the season. He was also a surprise semi finalist at Valencia, having made it there all the way from qualifying.
Richard Gasquet returned to the top 10 late in the tennis season after showing consistency for much of the year – going 42-22 including a 15-10 run on outdoor hard courts with the highlight a final in the Toronto Masters. Shock defeats like those to Ze Zhang and Albert Ramos though will give hope to the qualifier that meets up in Round 1 if he was to have a bad day. Post-Wimbledon, Lukas Lacko is another one who spiraled down the rankings, winning just one main draw match. He closed out the season in impressive fashion though, knocking off home favourite Jarkko Nieminen in the final of Helsinki challenger. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez‘s recent form doesn’t make for much better reading at all, but the 2-0 record he owns over the Slovakian will give him confidence. Grega Zemjla ended the season in great form, making the final of Vienna challenger where he held his own against Juan Martin Del Potro, also beating Janko Tipsarevic and Tommy Haas a long the way. Meanwhile, Fognini couldn’t have been much worse, losing his last 6 matches including being one of the rare few to be defeated by Donald Young. After going 38-25 in 2011, Viktor Troicki was another who failed to progress in 2012 going a disappointing 22-29 at ATP level. He should get back to winning ways this year though, with Bjorn Phau waiting in Round 1. The Serb owns a 2-0 head to head over Phau, both of which were straight sets wins on hard courts.