All eyes will be on Roger Federer, who makes his highly-anticipated return to action following a 13-month layoff, as he eyes his fourth title at the ATP Doha.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion headlines a stellar field in Doha, with his comeback graced by the presence of fellow top-10 performers Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev, who is the tournament’s defending champion.
Classy Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov, Federer’s fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka and 2019 hero Roberto Bautista Agut also form the star-studded line-up.
Federer May Take Time to Find His Stride
The time has come for Federer to return to court and his lengthy layoff has seen him tumble down to number five in the world rankings.
But now aged 39 and with no titles since 2019, it would be dangerous to expect the Swiss great to return to his scintillating best in such a cut-throat event.
It is probably fair to assume that Federer’s best days are behind him and there will be far bigger targets than this on his mind, such as securing a ninth Wimbledon crown in July.
Getting match fit will be the number one priority for the game’s great grass-court player, who receives a first-round bye courtesy of being the tournament’s second seed. British number one Dan Evans or French stalwart Jeremy Chardy will be his first opponent.
Refreshed Shapovalov Set for a Starring Role
The bottom-half of the draw is far less compact than that of the top-half, where world number three Thiem, last week’s Rotterdam finalists Rublev and Marton Fucsovics, Wawrinka and Bautista Agut are all housed.
And with the well-being of Swiss veteran Federer unknown, the bottom section of the draw could be the first place for punters to profit.
Shapovalov, who has received a first-round bye, has been absent since losing out in the third round of the Australian Open to compatriot Felix Auger Aliassime. But he had earlier claimed the scalps of Bernard Tomic and the talented Jannik Sinner to show his game was in decent shape.
The world number 11 is a previous winner on the ATP Tour – he secured silverware in Stockholm in 2019 – and he is also a former Grand Slam quarter-finalist.
At 21, there is a lot more to come from the Canadian left-hander and with a nice draw to work with, he looks the most likely to prosper were Federer to be found wanting and is worthy of each-way support.
Wawrinka to Roll Back the Years?
If there is to be an upset from the top half of the draw, then Wawrinka is the man likely to land it.
Wawrinka deserves plenty of praise for winning three Grand Slam titles in this era of tennis and although now 35, Federer’s fellow countryman may not be done with just yet.
The world number 20 was beaten in five sets by Fucsovics in the second round of the Australian Open – he squandered three match points – but given the Hungarian has since reached the final in Rotterdam, that form doesn’t look so bad.
Wawrinka has been winning games on a more frequent basis in recent months and a Challenger title in August, as well as a run to the quarter-finals of hard-court events in St Petersburg and Paris, show he remains competitive with the game’s elite.
The Swiss number two faces a qualifier before a potential second-round rematch with Fucsovics, whose heroics in Rotterdam may leave him vulnerable.
*All odds correct at time of writing.