Both Ash Barty and Simona Halep have opted out of the Qatar Total Open 2021, the 19th edition of which will take place from 1-6 March at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha.
Unfortunately I have withdrawn from the Qatar Total Open with a left leg injury. I wish the tournament a safe and successful event and hope to play there next year. Thank you to the event organisers and the WTA for all the work you are doing, I look forward to competing again in Miami in a few weeks time. Ash Barty
Barty follows World No 3 Halep, 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in skipping the Doha event.
AO21 Open champion Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will also not play, leaving Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka as the top seeds next week.
Barty’s decision came after being knocked out of the Adelaide International on Wednesday, losing 6-3 6-4 to American Danielle Collins in the second round.
The 24-year-old Australian World No 1 was struggling with a left thigh strain throughout the AO in Melbourne, where she bowed out in the quarter-finals last week.
“Unfortunately I have withdrawn from the Qatar Total Open with a left leg injury,” Barty said. “I wish the tournament a safe and successful event and hope to play there next year.
“Thank you to the event organisers and the WTA for all the work you are doing, I look forward to competing again in Miami in a few weeks time.”
Rather than signalling a downturn, Barty says the defeats are simply part and parcel of playing on the professional circuit.
“You know that there are no easy matches going into any tournament,” Barty said. “From an expectation of a public point of view, I think that [winning all the time] is their views and that’s their opinions and they are 100% able to voice those.
“But I think from a playing perspective, it’s about what do we expect from us as players and what do we bring to the court each day. We bring the right professionalism and prepare in the right way. And in the end, the result, it just is what it is, it’s not always going to go your way.
“You can’t win every single tennis match. But you can sure as hell approach it the right way. And from my team and from me, we did that this week and we just didn’t quite get that result.”
Barty will now take stock before deciding if, where and when she will play again outside of Australia.
The Queenslander was absent from the WTA Tour for almost 12 months before returning to competitive play on 2 February and she has since played 11 matches in 22 days.
Organisers of April’s Porsche Grand Prix are also evidently confident Barty will be in Stuttgart for their star-studded opening to the clay court season, announcing on Wednesday that the Australian will be joined there by Halep and Osaka.
“Stuttgart will be a great way to begin my European clay swing … I am really looking forward to playing the event for the first time,” Barty is quoted as saying by the tournament organisers.
Halep withdrew from Doha on Tuesday, but did not provide a reason for pulling out of the WTA 500 hardcourt tournament.
“I really look forward to being back in Doha next year,” Halep posted on Twitter. “Sending you my best wishes for a safe and successful week @QatarTennis.”
The 29-year old was thwarted by Serena Williams in her bid for a maiden triumph at the year’s opening Grand Slam in Melbourne, after falling short to Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 decider, and losing in straight sets to Garbiñe Muguruza in last year’s semi-finals.
Now ranked No 3, Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019, lost in straight sets to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals last week,
Bianca Andreescu confirmed last week that she will miss her next three events–in Adelaide, Doha, and Dubai due to a leg injury, and she plans to be ready to return to play at the Miami Masters, which begins on 23 March.
Her agent Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy aid the injury is not serious and the decision to pull out was in regards to the longevity of her career.
She missed 15 months due to a torn meniscus she suffered at the WTA Tour Finals in Asia in 2019 and made her return at the Australian Open, losing in the second round to Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan.
The following week she made it all to the way to the semi-finals of the Phillip Island Trophy, where all of her matches went 3 sets, and she eventually fell to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
Andreescu’s AO21 run was hampered by enduring hard quarantine for 14 days due to a positive case on her charter flight from Dubai when her coach Sylvain Brunneau tested positive upon arrival.
Due to the pandemic the rankings were frozen and, as a result, Andreescu kept her spot in the Top 10.
Meanwhile, Kiki Bertens is the first player to arrive in Doha and is proceeding with the necessary health protocols in line with the tournament’s vital health and safety measures.
Bertens ended the 2020 season as World No 9, her third time finishing among the Top-10 after she won the title at St. Petersburg and reached the 4th round at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
She missed the start of the season, including the Australian Open, after having surgery on her left Achilles tendon, so Doha will be her first tournament back.
The 28-year-old from the Netherlands announced the news on Instagram in October, posting a picture of herself in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast and writing that she had been dealing with ‘an Achilles injury for some time’ and the only way for her ‘to play without pain again’ was to have surgery.
“We are very excited to welcome Kiki Bertens to Doha for the fourth time,” Tournament Director Saad al-Mohannadi said. “Since her first appearance in 2017, she has only missed this tournament once, which indicates how important Qatar Total Open is to her.
“I wish her all the best as she enjoys her stay while she does what she knows how to do best at this week-long festival of great tennis,”
A total of $565,530 in prize money is up for grabs in Doha, which will involve 32 players, including 4 qualifiers, in the singles event, and 16 teams for the doubles.