he Qatar Open in Doha is the most stacked of the three ATP 250 events in this opening week of the season. Five top 10 players including No.1 Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray will compete here. With a title this week, Murray can draw level with Roger Federer’s record of three at this tournament.
Unlike Brisbane and Chennai, this tournament will be a 32 draw with no first round byes. It means that Nadal will begin against Lukas Rosol in round one. It is their first meeting since the Czech’s astonishing victory in Wimbledon 2012 and Nadal should surely get his revenge for the loss. Either wildcard Malek Jaziri or Tobias Kamke will be up for the winner which should allow Nadal to ease into this tournament before a potentially tough quarter final.
Ernests Gulbis should be there to face Nadal barring a surprise loss. He begins against a qualifier, the likes of which could include Dan Evans and Dustin Brown with a Spaniard also a possible second round opponent for Gulbis. Daniel Gimeno-Traver is 2-3 against Lukasz Kubot although the Pole was poor for large parts of 2013 – his ranking remaining high thanks to a Wimbledon quarter final run.
After a loss to Ivo Karlovic in Basel in late 2013, Tomas Berdych now has a losing record to the big serving Croatian. He will look to reverse this in the first round as he seeks his first singles title since late 2012. An all Croatian second rounder is possible with Ivan Dodig up against a qualifier in his opener while the winner of Philipp Kohlschreiber and Pablo Andujar also faces a qualifier.
Andy Murray‘s first main tour match since the US Open shouldn’t last very long. He faces local wildcard Mousa Zayed who is ranked outside of the top 2000. The 19 year old lost 6-0 6-3 at this event last time out to Gael Monfils. Florian Mayer should see off Michal Przysiezny in his opener to book a second round meeting with Murray. The Pole went 1-4 on hard at main tour level and has struggled to make the next step.
Fernando Verdasco isn’t always the most reliable of players but he should navigate the first two rounds with little trouble. His opening opponent Filippo Volandri is awful off the clay. Joao Sousa showed promise at the end of the 2013 season and should defeat Victor Hanescu but it will be much tougher against Verdasco.
Richard Gasquet is the other lucky player to draw a lowly wildcard, this time being Egyptian Karim Hossam. Hossam is ranked outside the top 300 and lost to a player ranked outside the top 800 in both of his last two events, both Qatar futures. Gael Monfils should pose more of a threat in round two should he see off Santiago Giraldo for the third time running. It would be the ninth meeting between the Frenchmen with Gasquet edging it 2-1 on outdoor hard.
Nikolay Davydenko was inspired in making the final last and is still capable of brilliance but making just one other quarter final in 2013 suggests time is running out for the Russian. He could have enough to beat the inconsistent Daniel Brands - who also had a great run at this tournament last time out – but it is hard to see Davydenko repeating his thrashing of David Ferrer who is a possible second round opponent. The Spaniard recently split with his long term coach so it will be intriguing to see how his season plays out. Ferrer begins against Alexandr Dolgopolov this week.
SF: Rafael Nadal def. Tomas Berdych
SF: Andy Murray def. Richard Gasquet
F: Andy Murray def. Rafael Nadal