Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps 2019 Doha Champion Roberto Bautista Agut’s Round-1 victory over American Reilly Opelka. It was a tremendous Day-1 nightcap, as the 5-seed came back from a set-down to reach the Round of 16.
Third meeting. Another clash that could have gone either way
This was the third meeting between these two talents. In 2019, Roberto Bautista Agut won their first meeting during Round-2 of the Shanghai Masters. Two weeks later, Reilly Opelka earned a deciding-set victory to reach the Semifinals of the ATP-500 event in Basel.
 Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
Two-years-ago on this court, he lifted Doha’s falcon during week-1 of the season, capturing his 9th ATP Tour Singles title. And it was truly a remarkable week for the Spaniard. In the Semifinals – down a set and a break – he rallied back to upset World #1 Novak Djokovic to reach the championship match (where he defeated Tomas Berdych in a deciding set). Later that year, he reached his first Major Semifinal at Wimbledon, cracked the ATP’s top-10 for the first time, and led Spain to the Davis Cup title in Madrid. A Finalist in Montpellier just 8-days-ago, he is now a 17-time Finalist on Tour. From Spain, please welcome 2019 Doha Champion, Roberto Bautista Agut.
- R1 — W — Reilly Opelka -39- (USA) | Score: 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Reilly Opelka -39- (USA) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
At over 2-meters tall, this ball-crushing American is an imposing presence both on and off the court. Last year, he captured his second ATP Singles title in Delray Beach – Then in Hawaii, lifted Team USA back into the Davis Cup Finals – just before the global pandemic slammed the brakes on the season. When play resumed in August, he reached his first Masters-1000 Quarterfinal at the Western & Southern Open in New York. Then earned his loudest top-10 victory in October, upsetting World #6 and 2-time Grand Slam Finalist Daniil Medvedev to reach the Quarterfinals in St. Petersburg. Here in Doha for the first time – from the United States, please welcome Reilly Opelka.
- R1 — L —  Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Score: 6-4, 3-6, 4-6
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2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open: Different Date. Unusual Reality.
In 2021, due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the ATP Tour rescheduled the Qatar ExxonMobil Open to take place the second week of March. A portion of the season typically carved-out for week-2 of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. When Indian Wells postponed its tournament due to COVID-19’s continued threat to the Coachella Valley, the Tour reinvented the 2021 calendar.
As a result, Delray Beach and Antalya hosted the season’s first events. Both ATP-250 tournaments, Delray typically happens in February – while Antalya is best-known for its grass event the week prior to Wimbledon. From there, Australian Open qualifiers played three rounds in Doha, while main-draw entrants traveled to Australia for two weeks of quarantine. Meanwhile, Tennis Australia moved the Australian Open to the second week of February, to accommodate the country’s strict pandemic protocols. Immediately following quarantine, Melbourne Park hosted several new lead-up tournaments along with the ATP Cup. After Oz, the Tour then staged five events over the next two weeks (Singapore-250, Cordoba-250, Montpellier-250, Rotterdam-500 and Buenos Aires-250), before Doha-250 and Montpellier-250 shared center stage on March 8th.
Doha: Back to a Week-1 Event in 2022
Provided there are no further set-backs with the global pandemic, next year the Qatar ExxonMobil Open should return to it’s week-1 position on the calendar. Like in 2020, it will launch the season alongside the ATP Cup, played in venues across Australia.
Coronavirus: Delivering a top-shelf international event responsibly
While the Qatar Tennis Federation allowed fans to attend the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open; the QTF sold tickets at reduced capacity. All wore masks, encountered temperature checks upon arrival, and adhered to social-distancing guidelines – required to sit several seats apart.
Players, ATP staff and umpires lived in their own “bubble” at the Four Seasons. Meanwhile, tournament support, lines-people, ball persons and the announcer stayed in a separate “bubble” at Ezdan Palace. All underwent routine coronavirus testing and regular temperature checks. Everyone wore masks at all times (except players and umpires during competition). The locker-room was off-limits for the athletes until their match was on-deck, and none were allowed to shower on site. Every aspect of post-match recovery took place at the player hotel.
Pandemic Event Hosting: Champions adjust
From behind-the-scenes pandemic protocols to extreme “socially-distanced” announcer interviews and trophy presentations – the Qatar Tennis Federation and ATP Tour adhered to every science-guided precaution to ensure the safety of all involved. And by doing so, despite all of the obvious challenges, delivered another top-shelf experience for both players and fans on site and those watching around the world.
Hosting high-profile international events during a devastating pandemic is possible. That is, when organizers have the courage, compassion and ingenuity to reinvent the way things are done; when they have the flexibility and financial support to adjust expectation. And as we’ve all learned after one year of separation, isolation, anxiety and heart-break: the “escape” that televised sports provides is invaluable to mental health. A welcome distraction to a very un-welcome new reality.