Five Players Who Can Challenge Swiatek At Qatar Open After Sabalenka's Withdrawal

Five Players Who Can Challenge Swiatek At Qatar Open After Sabalenka's Withdrawal

by Nurein Ahmed

The Qatar Open has been Iga Swiatek's playpen for the past two seasons, and it is looking increasingly likely that her dominance will last for another season following Aryna Sabalenka's withdrawal.

Swiatek won her first title in Doha in 2022, dropping just one set all week. She completed a rout of Anett Kontaveit in the final with a score of 6-2, 6-0. Last year, she won just three matches en route to the title and dropped a meager five games all week (albeit benefitting from a walkover in the quarterfinal).

It was expected that Aryna Sabalenka would give the 22-year-old a run for her money in her quest to complete the three-peat, which would be a record at this tournament because it has never been done before.

But the Belarusian powerhouse withdrew from the tournament. Still, plenty of tricky opponents are in the field to stop Swiatek, and here are five names who could do so.

5. Caroline Garcia

While the head-to-head is 4-1 in Swiatek's favor, Garcia has taken a set in each of her last two defeats to the Pole. She was two points away from beating her at the China Open last season, and who knows, maybe that could have severely dented Swiatek's hopes of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking.

That said, the Frenchwoman is one of the few players on tour armed with the serve to hurt Swiatek. Garcia recorded the most aces of any woman last year and beat Swiatek in her home city of Warsaw in 2022. Maybe lightning will strike again if they meet in Doha.

4. Ons Jabeur

Ons Jabeur is one of the most charismatic players on tour and gets lots of fan support wherever she plays. But she is most at home in the Middle East. And if there are tournaments where she will fancy her chances of upsetting Swiatek, the Doha would rank high on her list.

3. Elena Rybakina

Yet another big hitter who has enjoyed a period of sustained dominance against Swiatek in recent years. What makes Elena Rybakina even more dangerous is that she has a winning head-to-head record, giving her a psychological edge should they meet again.

2. Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff might not get enough votes, but she has gone from strength to strength in the last 12 months. The only thing still holding her back is her erratic forehand, which might need more time and modification than slight tweaking.

Gauff, however, has a massive opportunity to make a real statement. She is gunning for the World No. 1 ranking, and the Middle East swing is crucial for her to take that first leap. A win over Swiatek would be a massive confidence booster.

1. Jelena Ostapenko

If we are being candid, every player on tour has that one bogey opponent, and no matter the circumstances, they are just not comfortable playing the match. And for Swiatek, a matchup against Jelena Ostapenko is her least favorite.

In four career meetings, the Latvian has emerged on top every time, including the fourth round of the 2023 US Open. Ostapenko revealed the secret to her success, noting that Swiatek "hates" playing the big hitters because she is not afforded time and space to dictate rallies.


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