Defending champion Safarova fit and raring to go in Qatar

 21 Feb 2016 - 2:28

Defending champion Safarova fit and raring to go in Qatar
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic (right) is seen with Eugenie Bouchard of Canada (left) and Fatima Al Nabina of Oman in Doha. Safarova is the defending champion at this week’s Qatar Total Open which begins today.

By Rizwan Rehmat 
Doha: Defending champion Lucie Safarova starts this week’s Qatar Total Open with hopes of making a sound start to the new season, knowing the harrowing latter part of 2015 is a thing of the past. 

The 29-year-old Czech missed last month’s Australian Open while recovering from a bacterial infection that saw her hospitalised for a week in September last year.
Safarova caught the infection after the French Open last year. She returned for October’s WTA Finals in Singapore but failed to make it past the group stage at the season-ending championships.
“I am happy to be back on court as it has been a while. I will take step by step,” Safarova told The Peninsula yesterday.  “I have been away from the tennis for six months. My priority is to get back into tennis, get into routine of matches. I am really excited to be back in Doha. 
“I really enjoyed my trophy run last year,” Safarova said. 
Last year, the stunningly beautiful Safarova stopped Victoria Azarenka from winning her third title in Doha, winning the final 6-4, 6-3 at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. The Czech arrived in Doha almost two weeks ago in an attempt to position herself for the rigours of the WTA Tour matches. 
“Yes, I got what I was looking for from my earlier arrival in Doha. We did great two weeks of practice. I have great memories here so I am ready to start,” Safarova said. 
“I have had a good time in Doha the last few days. I think Doha event is always so strong. I will do my best,” she added. 
Safarova, ranked 10 in the world, said her goal in the 2016 season is to reach the top-10.  
“Obviously it would be nice to stay in the top-10 and improve my game. Obviously getting some great results on the big WTA Tour events and the Grand Slams is also important,” Safarova said when asked about her goals in the new season. 
Safarova said 2015 was hugely satisfying year before she got sick after playing the French Open ar Roland Garros.
“Yeah, It was an amazing season. I reached my best ranking. I set the target pretty high. I hope I remain healthy in 2016,” she said. 
Safarova said a third Olympic Games appearance is also pretty much one of her targets in 2016.
“Yeah, if I qualify for the Olympics, then that is something I’d like to do. I have been to two Olympics. I have been to Beijing and Olympics already. It will be fun to go to Rio,” Safraova said. “There is a lot of chick players. There’s a lot of competition out there (smiles),” she said. 
“It (the Doha event) is a very big tournament. The best players in here in Doha. People will see some great tennis,” she said when asked about her chances. 
Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion‎, and Simona Halep, former winner in Doha, lead the star cast at this week’s Qatar Total Open which begins today. 
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, winner of last year’s season-ending championships, and Petra Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion, are also part of the 64-player field. 
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia are also in the field. In the doubles, Swiss legend Martina Hingis and Indian partner and star Sania Mirza are the top seeded pair. The total prize money is $2.5m with the winner taking home a staggering amount of $518,500. The Peninsula