Thiem tops Doha field with Djokovic and Tsonga on the sideline

Dominic Thiem has always taken the court at every opportunity, so it comes as no surprise that he is getting his 2018 campaign started as soon as possible. In addition to playing the recent Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, Thiem will also be taking his talents to Doha this coming week for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Ranked fifth in the world, the 24-year-old Austrian is the No. 1 seed ahead of Pablo Carreno Busta, Tomas Berdych, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Unlike in Brisbane and Pune, Doha features a full field of 32 so there are no first-round byes. Thiem will kick off his 2018 campaign against Evgeny Donskoy, while Carreno Busta may have a tough opener on his hands against Borna Coric. Berdych and Ramos-Vinolas are going up against Jan-Lennard Struff and Guido Pella, respectively.

Thiem and Berdych are on a collision course for the semifinals in the top half of the bracket, but a lot of work must be done before that potential showdown comes to fruition. Richard Gasquet is a possible quarterfinal foe for Thiem, while Berdych could run into Gael Monfils in the second round and either Filip Krajinovic or fellow Serb Viktor Troicki in the last eight. In addition to Carreno Busta, Ramos-Vinolas, Coric, and Pella in the bottom half, U.S. Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev will be looking to build on his breakout 2017 campaign. Rublev, the top-ranked unseeded player in Doha, opens with Cedrik-Marcel Steve before a possible round-two date with Fernando Verdasco.

Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, meanwhile, are among those who pulled out of the tournament.

“Unfortunately, the situation with the elbow has not changed for better,” said Djokovic, who has not played since retiring from a Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Berdych. “I still feel the pain. Therefore, I will have to withdraw from ATP tournament in Doha. I am sorry that I will not be able to play in front of my fans here. I have great memories of this tournament and the matches I played, like the final against Andy [Murray] from last year.”

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