Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps David Goffin’s Round-1 victory over Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic. Doha hasn’t been a hot-bed of success for the Belgian; but he did capture the Doubles title with lifelong buddy Pierre-Hugues Herbert two-years-ago.
Fifth meeting, Goffin now leads head-to-head (3-2).
These two first met on the Challenger Tour 7-years-ago. Tonight was their 5th Tour-level meeting. Goffin has won their last two encounters, including a victory last August in Round-3 of the US Open. The victory is David’s first straight-sets Tour-level win over the Serbian.
 David Goffin – 14- (BEL) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
The first Belgian in the history of the ATP Tour to crack the top-10 – He owns 5 ATP Singles titles, is a 2-time Davis Cup Finalist, a Laver Cup Champion; and at the 2017 ATP Finals in London – defeated World #1 Rafael Nadal, then World #2 Roger Federer to reach the year-end championship match. Just 9-days-ago, he captured his first title in 4-years – coming-back from a set-down to defeat Roberto Bautista Agut in Montpellier – his 14th career ATP Tour-level Final. Back for his 3rd Qatar ExxonMobil Open; 2-years-ago on this court (he shocked even himself) – teaming with childhood friend Pierre-Hugues Herbert to capture his first-ever Doubles title. From Belgium, please welcome David Goffin.
- R1 — W — Filip Krajinovic -32- (SRB) | Score: 6-4, 6-4
Filip Krajinovic -32- (SRB) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
He is a 3-time ATP Tour-level Finalist, owns 10 Challenger titles, is a Davis Cup Semifinalist, and has been ranked as high World #26. Last year, he reached a pair of Semifinals before the pandemic suspension. Then when play resumed, he earned one of the biggest wins of his career – defeating World #3 Dominic Thiem at the Western & Southern Open (the only man to defeat the US Open Champ in New York). Back for his 4th Qatar ExxonMobil Open; 6-years-ago, he teamed with Novak Djokovic to reach his first career Doubles Semifinal right here in Doha. From Serbia, please welcome Filip Krajinovic.
- R1 — L —  David Goffin – 14- (BEL) | Score: 4-6, 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.