Doha: The WTA Tour returns to Doha after a two-year break this week with world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark leading the field in the 721,000 dollar Qatar Ladies Open beginning from Monday.
Wozniacki, who reclaimed the top ranking last week in Dubai after losing it briefly to Kim Clijsters, will be back at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex once again in a matter of four months after finishing second to the Belgian in the season-ending finale last November.
The Qatar Open was last held in 2008, but was scrapped as the country was chosen as the hosts of the more prestigious WTA Championships for three years, the next three editions of which will be held in Istanbul.
And with seven of the world top 10 confirming their participation, organisers say they couldn't have asked for a better platform to showcase the tournament.
"This is one of the best fields ever assembled in Doha in a regular WTA event and obviously we are delighted," said tournament director Karim Alami, the Moroccan former player.
"World number one Wozniacki is obviously the top draw but the fact that seven of the leading 10 are in Doha means we couldn't have asked for a more auspicious relaunch."
The top four seeds in Doha have been given first round byes, with Wozniacki likely to clash with Italian Francesca Schiavone in the quarter-finals and Vera Zvonareva in the final if there are no upsets along the way.
Zvonareva, the world number three and the second seed, has an excellent record in Doha. She was runner-up to fellow Russian Maria Sharapova in 2008 and later that year stormed into the final of the season-ending event undefeated before being beaten by Venus Williams for the title.
Sharapova, too, was supposed to play in Doha and vie for an unprecedented third title here, but opted out after suffering a viral illness before the Paris Indoors two weeks ago and failing to recover in time.
Schiavone, the world number four and the reigning French Open champion, is the third seed in Doha, while China's Li Na, the Australian Open finalist is fourth.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova is unseeded for the tournament but having made the final in Dubai she will be a top contender in Doha where she has made the final twice.
Kuznetsova will face Israeli Shahar Peer, the eighth seed, in the first round.
Meanwhile, 2006 Qatar Open winner Nadia Petrova said she had never faced such a tough draw in Qatar.
"It is a tough draw. I think this has been the hardest ever draw seen in the history of the Qatar Open," the Russian said.
"I have a tough first-round clash (against Roberta Vinci) and then there are more tough players in the draw."
India's Sania Mirza, who has been given a wildcard, said she will it give her best shot.
"You are playing the top-30 players so obviously it won't be easy," Mirza said.
"I have no pressure. I just plan to go out and play," the 24-year-old said. "Obviously I will be trying to give my best and see how it goes."