DOHA, Feb 26: Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo is a strong favourite to win the 600,000 dollars Qatar Total Open this week and regain top spot in the world rankings for the first time since September 2004.
The Frenchwoman had the chance to get past Belgium's Kim Clijsters in the rankings last week at the Dubai Open but lost to Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals.
With world number one Clijsters expected to be out of action with an ankle injury until late March, Mauresmo is widely tipped to take the top spot.
World number two Mauresmo is seeded top in the 28-player Qatar Open field.
''It's been a great start to the year and I hope I can keep it going,'' Mauresmo told reporters today.
''I was running a little bit out of gas on the second day after rain stopped our match. And Kuznetsova was playing better as well. It made it pretty hard to come off the court as a winner,'' she said of the Dubai loss.
Russia's Nadia Petrova, who heads the bottom half of the draw, is seeded number two, while other challengers include Italy's Francesco Schiavone, two-time winner Anastasia Myskina of Russia, US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva.
Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic and Swiss Martina Hingis are also in the mix.
Myskina, chasing her third title in Doha, said she was confident of a good display.
''I'm geared up for this tournament where I have a good record,'' she said.
''I've had a poor run last season, but I am looking forward to good results here.'' Hingis, who won the inaugural Qatar Open in 2001, is aiming for her first title since making her tour comeback. She beat India's rising star Sania Mirza and Myskina in Dubai before losing to Russia's Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.