Doha, Qatar: World No. 1 and 2019 French Open champion Ashleigh Barty tops the star-studded list of players, comprising four former champions, lined up for the Qatar Total Open 2020 to be held from February 23 to 29 at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha.
This year’s event, the 18th edition, is featuring eight of the world’s top-ten players including 2017 champion and World No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and 2014 champion and World No. 4 Simona Halep.
Also on the list are 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist and World No.5 Elina Svitolina, World No. 6 and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, World No. 7 Belinda Bencic, 2018 champion and World No. 8 Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens, the World No. 10.
In all, a total of 64 players, including four qualifiers, will feature in the singles event of the WTA
Premier 5 tournament while 32 teams will slug it out in the doubles.
Aside from the top-ranked players, defending champion and 2019 US Open doubles winner Elise Mertens is also making a return to Doha alongside former world No.1 Angelique Kerber, finalist in 2014, Garbiñe Muguruza, 2018 finalist, and Jelena Ostapenko, the 2016 finalist.
While all eyes will be on the 23-year-old Barty, who captured her third WTA Player of the Month award in October after winning the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen and ending the season as World No.1, to hoist the golden falcon trophy for the first time, the die is also cast between the four past champions featuring at this year’s tournament to see who will be joining the elite group of two-time winners in Doha.
Since the tournament began in 2001, only three players - Anastasia Myskina (2003, 2004), Maria Sharapova (2005, 2008) and Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013) – have had the privilege of lifting the trophy on more than one occasion.
Barty, whose $4.42 million earnings for winning the WTA season-ending event in Shenzhen is the largest amount of prize money at a single men's or women's tournament in tennis history to date, has had a spectacular season in 2019. Besides winning the French Open and the WTA Finals, the Australian also won the Miami Open and the Birmingham Classic, and she was the worthy recipient of the WTA Player of the Year award for 2019.
By winning the 2019 Finals, Barty, a former cricketer, also became the second Australian to capture the WTA Finals crown following 1974 and 1976 champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and the fifth player to win the tournament as a debutante.
The Ipswich, Queensland-born star, who had to withdraw from last year’s event due to hip injury, will be hoping to continue her fine form and win her first trophy in Doha this time around.
Tournament Director Karim Alami said, “We are delighted with the list of top players lined up for this year’s Qatar Total Open. That most of the top-ten players are featuring at the tournament is an indication of the importance of this tournament and we believe all the fans will have a wonderful time as they enjoy watching their favourite players doing what they know how to do best on the courts of Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex come February 23.”
Belgium’s Mertens won the 2019 edition after stunning Halep 3–6, 6–4, 6–3 in a thrilling encounter that lasted two hours and 13 minutes to claim her first-ever WTA Premier-level crown, and the fifth title of her career overall.