Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps qualifier Lloyd Harris’ determined Round-1 upset of his childhood idol, Stan Wawrinka. Hell of a match. Perspective: When Stan reached the Doha Final in 2008 — Lloyd was only 10-years-old.
First meeting between these two players.
[Q] Lloyd Harris -84- (RSA) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
This year’s top qualifying seed; on Sunday, he defeated Lukas Lacko to reach the main draw in his Qatar ExxonMobil Open debut. In 2017, he made his ATP Tour debut as a qualifier in Antalya; and within 3-years, cracked the top-100, becoming Africa’s top-ranked talent. Last year in Adelaide – as a qualifier, he won six consecutive matches to reach his first ATP Tour-level Final, and climbed to a career-high ranking of World #72. Last month in Melbourne, he reached Round-3 of a Major for the first time. From South Africa – making his first appearance on center court in Doha – please welcome Lloyd Harris.
- R1 — W —  Stan Wawrinka -20- (SUI) | Score: 7-6(3), 6-7(6), 7-5
- Q2 — W — Lukas Lacko -197- (SVK) | Score: 6-4, 6-3
- Q1 — BYE
 Stan Wawrinka -20- (SUI) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
The #7-seed in this year’s draw – they call him “Big Match Stan” for a reason. He is a 3-time Grand Slam Champion, a 4-time Major Finalist, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a Davis Cup Champion. Ranked as high as World #3, he owns 16 career Singles titles, has reached 30 career Finals – and with victories last year over Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, continues to prove there’s plenty left in the tank for the ATP’s NextGen talent. Competing in his 7th Qatar ExxonMobil Open, he was a Finalist here in Doha 13-years-ago; after earning his first career victory over defending champion Ivan Ljubicic in the 2008 Semifinals. From Switzerland, please welcome Stan Wawrinka.
- R1 — L — [Q] Lloyd Harris -84- (RSA) | Score: 6-7(3), 7-6(6), 5-7
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 is typically held 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.