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PLISKOVA AIMS FOR MIDDLE EAST DOUBLE: 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DUBAI & BUDAPEST

Can Karolina Pliskova become the third woman in WTA history to sweep the Doha/Dubai double? How will Timea Babos fare as top seed at her home country?

DUBAI/BUDAPEST - The Middle East Swing takes the tour into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the first Premier 5 event of the 2017 season. Meanwhile, tennis returns to Budapest for the inaugural Hungarian Ladies Open. What are the top stories to look out for in what promises to be another wild week on the WTA tour?

Check out 10 things to know right here:

 

 

1. Pliskova closes in on Doha/Dubai double.
Since the Middle East swing was created in 2001, just two women have swept both events: Martina Hingis (2001) and Justine Henin (2007). Karolina Pliskova put on a comprehensive performance at the Qatar Total Open to become the first to win two titles in 2017; the Czech is seeded No.2 in Dubai and opens against either St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy champ Kristina Mladenovic or Shenzhen Open winner Katerina Siniakova.

2. Kerber gets crack at No.1.
Angelique Kerber lost the top spot after Serena Williams won the Australian Open, but the German could take it back should she win Dubai. As the top seed, she'll play countrywoman and wildcard Mona Barthel, who is working her way back from a disastrous 2016 that saw her sit out several months due to illness. Can the two-time Grand Slam champion turn around a tough start to 2017?

 

 

3. Cibulkova in the swing of things.
Dominika Cibulkova admitted to having a slow start to the season when press during All-Access Hour. Two straight semifinals and a 400th career match win have given her a big bump heading into Dubai, where the Slovak is seeded No.3. Her first opponent will nonetheless be tricky, as Ekaterina Makarova won their most recent match in Melbourne.

4. Another Radwanska/Pironkova rematch?
Speaking of Melbourne rematches, No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska could play dangerous floater Tsvetana Pironkova in her opening round; the two have split their last two matches at the French Open and Down Under. But the Bulgarian will have to get past Hobart International champion Elise Mertens for a chance at pulling off the upset.

5. Muguruza's cultural revolution.
Garbiñe Muguruza has enjoyed a solid start to 2017 and is already enjoying her time in Dubai - taking in the sights like the Burj Khalifa. The No.5 seed opens against either Kateryna Bondarenko or qualifier Aryna Sabalenka, with Radwanska looming in the last eight.

6. Svitolina seeks a big breakthrough.
Elina Svitolina starts 2017 with a win over then-No.1 Kerber and a title run at the Taiwan Open. The Ukrainian youngster heads to Dubai looking for more of both, with a first Premier title firmly in her sights. Seeded in Cibulkova's quarter, Svitolina opens against qualifier Zhang Saisai, with Naomi Osaka serving as possible third round opposition.

 

 

7. Big teams reunite in doubles.
The first big event since the Australian Open sees several familiar teams pair up in Dubai, led by top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, and Olympic Gold medalists Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. The draw also features the return of Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan, who teamed up for the first time in Doha, reaching the semifinals.

8. Babos does Budapest.
Timea Babos caps a career-best 12 months with a hero's welcome at home in Hungary. One of three hometown favorites in the draw - leading wildcards Dalma Galfi and Fanny Stollar - Babos plays her first round against wildcard Ipek Soylu, who won the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai in doubles last fall.

 

 

9. Safarova shoots for first title in 10 months.
Lucie Safarova last took home a WTA title at home in Prague, having more than a few ups and downs since then. The Czech veteran is seeded second in Budapest, with Magda Linette drawn as her first opponent. Can the former World No.5 breakthrough in Bedapest?

10. Goerges attempts to erase Fed Cup disappointment.
Julia Goerges had a strong start to her season, upsetting Caroline Wozniacki en route to the semifinals of the ASB Classic, but a knee injury sustained at Fed Cup threatend to derail her momentum. Seeded third in Budapest, Goerges opens against a qualifier in what will be likely be an important test for the big-hitting German.

 

Get on the Road to Singapore to see who are amongst the top 8 in the first Leaderboard update!

This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.




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