Doha: Top-5 Moments of 2016

1. Novak’s Perfect Match

In the Qatar ExxonMobil Open championship match, Novak Djokovic absolutely dominated Rafael Nadal. They’d played 46 times before, each with 23 wins. On Saturday night, Novak was unstoppable. Everything went in. He earned his 60th career ATP World Tour singles title: 6-1, 6-2. (MORE)

Novak Djokovic wins his 60th career title in Doha
Novak Djokovic wins his 60th career title in Doha

2. Illya Marchenko’s Big Week

Beginning the year in Doha turned out to be a great decision for Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko. He upset World #7 David Ferrer in Round-1 (his first top-10 win in five tries), eliminated Teymuraz Gabashvili, then upset #31 Jeremy Chardy to reach his first career ATP World Tour semifinal. While he fell to Rafa in straight-sets, it was a sincerely productive week-one for Illya, jumping 18-slots from #94 to #76 in the rankings…good news for a young man who has lived in Slovakia for the past two years, as war continues to impact his hometown of Donetsk on the Ukrainian-Russian border. (MORE)

Illya Marchenko. All smiles after week-one...
Illya Marchenko. All smiles after week-one…

3. Rafael Nadal’s Confidence

He’s back. At least, it FELT like Rafa’s mojo had returned…before Novak’s lights-out performance in the Final. It’s unclear how Saturday night’s match will impact Nadal’s mindset heading into the Australian Open, but if this week in Doha is any indication, he’ll strike the ball with confidence and agressively attack his opponents’ weaknesses. He overcame some very strong challengers this week – namely the inspired play of Andrey Kuznetsov – and often told the media that he has ditched the confidence struggles of 2015. (MORE)

Rafael Nadal. A new outlook on the new year...
Rafael Nadal. A new outlook on the new year…

4. A Week-1 Win for Team Lopez

Feliciano Lopez teamed with David Ferrer in London’s Summer Games four years ago…and fell in the Bronze Medal match. After an impressive week-one of the season with Marc Lopez, could we be looking at one of the Spanish doubles teams for Rio 2016? These two hadn’t played in a final together since 2004, but showed encouraging chemistry by surviving two match tie-breaks to reach the Final. (MORE)

Team Lopez. Feliciano and Marc finally win their first title together
Team Lopez. Feliciano and Marc finally win their first title together

5. Spending Time with these Knuckleheads

There’s never a dull moment on set with Bein Sports’ Andy Kerr, Nicky Crosby, and Jan-Michael Gambill. It’s always a blast talking tennis with this team of all-stars…or whatever else we choose to “mutter on” about. I’m so thankful we were able to share with the world my proficiency at cleaning public restrooms!

Andy Kerr, Nicky Crosby, Andy Taylor, and Jan-Michael Gambill
Andy Kerr, Nicky Crosby, Andy Taylor, and Jan-Michael Gambill

The truth is, I adore this tournament and its fans. While the Qatar ExxonMobil Open may not have the week-day crowds of Auckland...there's an air of gratitude, sincere appreciation for talent and players, and a genuine, jovial respect that bridges language and cultural barriers. This is a unique place: Doha - and though the hours are long and the preparation intense, it is very rare to find me without a smile on my face. I like that. I like that a lot.