(8) Angelique Kerber vs (wc) Victoria Azarenka
The most anticipated first round encounter in Doha sees former champion, Victoria Azarenka take on last years finalist, Angelique Kerber. This promises to be an extremely hard fought match between two ladies desperate for victory. Vika and Angie have both been regular features in the top 10 over the past few years but both come into this match outside the top 10, both desperately looking to climb their way back up.
Angelique Kerber arrives in Doha in the midst of a disappointing form slump. Angie has lost three of her last four main draw matches, including back to back first round exits at the Australian and then in Antwerp. Angie aptured her first victory since Sydney last week in Dubai where she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 6-4. However the German’s run was short lived as she succumbed to Flavia Pennetta 2-6 6-3 1-6 in the next round.
Angie seems to be severely deprived of confidence at the moment, playing a tentative, timid brand of tennis which is a far cry from her destructive best. The German will be eager to turn things around this week in Doha, a first career victory over Vika would be just what the doctor ordered.
Victoria Azarenka arrives in Doha to play her first tour match since her fourth round Australian Open defeat to Dominika Cibulkova and her first match under the guidance of new coach, Wim Fissette.
Azarenka seemed to turn a corner in Melbourne, playing much better tennis, especially in her super impressive 6-4 6-2 second round win over Caroline Wozniacki. Vika then went on to help guide Belarus through to April’s world group 2 playoffs, thumping Heather Watson 6-4 6-1 in the deciding rubber against Great Britain.
The former champion loves the conditions in Doha, famously beating Serena Williams in an epic final back in 2013. A lot has changed since then and Vika is still some way from reaching a similar level of tennis, however Vika seems poised to have another great week in Doha. The Belarusian has been practising in Doha for about a week and is arguably better prepared than anyone else in the draw.
Vika has a perfect 3-0 head to head record over Angie, however the victories haven’t been easy. Their most recent encounter was arguably the best match of the 2012 season at the year end championships in Istanbul. Vika saved match points on route to a grueling 6-7 7-6 6-4 victory.
This promises to be another extremely close match between to dogged competitors. The head to head would suggest that Vika has the slight edge and I think that is a true indication. Both ladies have had a good amount of time in Doha to prepare for this one, so we should see a high quality match. Vika’s return of serve is one of the biggest differences in this matchup, especially when Angie isn’t serving well, which has been the case recently. I think Vika will grind out a win.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Angelique Kerber in 3 sets