WTA Dubai 2013 Draw Preview and Analysis

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For full draw, please click here: WTA Dubai 2013 Draw

So strong is the field at this week’s WTA Premier tournament in Dubai that the world number 26, Tamira Paszek, has had to enter the qualifying draw. With eight of the world’s top ten competing in the UAE, the $2 million dollar Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are set to be one of the most competitive week-long events of the season. Agnieszka Radwanska will be there to defend the title she won twelve months ago, while new world number one Serena Williams, along with the woman she replaced at the top of the rankings, Victoria Azarenka, are also set to play in Dubai.

Given the remarkable strength of the draw, there will be no easy matches for any of the top players this week. Victoria Azarenka, as a top four seed, has a bye into the second round. There, she will face either Dominika Cibulkova or Nadia Petrova, two players who have played impressively but inconsistently in recent months. Cibulkova, who was the last woman besides Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams to beat Azarenka, made a superb start to 2013 by storming to the final in Sydney. But since she was double-bageled there by Radwanska, her confidence and form has plummeted. Petrova didn’t make a major impact in Australia, yet she proved that she still has what it takes to beat the best in the game when she won in Tokyo last October. In Doha last week, the Russian looked solid, and pushed seventh seed Petra Kvitova to three sets.

Azarenka is seeded to face Sara Errani in the last eight, which would be a repeat of their Doha quarter-final. The Italian would have to get past the streaky but powerful Julia Georges first; if she can, a second round clash with Sloane Stephens seems likely. The young American was not best pleased when she lost a final set tie-break to Klara Zakopalova in Doha, and will be keen to get back to winning ways in Dubai. A rematch of the Azarenka-Stephens Australian Open semi-final, notorious for the Belarusian’s dubious medical time-out, would garner a lot of attention.

Angelique Kerber is the highest seed in the second section of the draw, and could face a tough opening match against Roberta Vinci. Kerber, who ended 2012 ranked fifth in the world, has had a less than stellar start to the new season, and was dumped out of Doha by compatriot Mona Barthel, only managing to win three games. With the German struggling for form, Sam Stosur, the seventh seed in Dubai, has an excellent chance to reach the semi-finals. Having also failed to put together consecutive wins at the beginning of 2013, Stosur posted an impressive victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova in Doha. If she is feeling confident, the Aussie is one of the best hard court players on tour, and could make some noise at the Aviation Club.

Just when her fans were beginning to lose faith, Petra Kvitova is showing signs of life again. Following early exits at all the Australian tournaments and at the Paris indoors, the Czech played steadily in Doha, reaching the quarter-finals and coming within a few games of beating Serena. Although she couldn’t manage to hold on for the upset, Kvitova played her best tennis in months, and will be hoping to continue the upsurge in Dubai. She will play a qualifier in the opening round – no easy task considering the likes of Kuznetsova are in the qualifying draw – and could face either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Ana Ivanovic in the last 16.

If Kvitova can get to the quarter-finals, a potential meeting with Agnieszka Radwanska could be one of the highlights of the week, a wonderful contrast in styles, strengths and strategies. The Pole has a bye into the second round, and will play either Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan or Britain’s Laura Robson, both wild card entrants in Dubai. Robson has a golden opportunity to make another big impact at a major tournament, and will have the backing of the city’s numerous British expats.

She may have claimed the number one ranking meant little to her, but Serena Williams was overwhelmed with emotion when she recaptured the top spot by reaching the semi-finals in Doha. The reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion has a chance to cement her position as the Queen Bee of the WTA Tour with another strong showing in Dubai. She faces either Klara Zakopalova, who beat her on clay in 2009, or Marion Bartoli, who memorably edged her in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2011. It is difficult to imagine Serena losing to either woman this week, however, so a last eight clash with Lucie Safarova or Caroline Wozniacki beckons.

Wozniacki played better than she has done in a while in Doha, but failed to dent the armour of Radwanska in the quarter-finals there. To maintain her slim hold on a top ten ranking, the Dane needs to produce a similar result in Dubai. An upset of Serena would do wonders for her confidence and make her relevant as an elite player again, but having fallen to Wozniacki in Miami last spring, Serena is wary of her defensive game, and is unlikely to suffer another letdown. Yet again, the biggest question when Serena enters a tournament is: who can stop her?

Predicted semi-finals: Azarenka def. Stosur; Serena def. Kvitova

Champion: Serena Williams

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