Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Roger Federer’s deciding-set, Round of 16 victory over Dan Evans. It was Roger’s triumphant return after two knee surgeries and an extended delay due the COVID-19 pandemic. The maestro didn’t disappoint. With fans watching the world over, Roger effortlessly brandished the breathtaking tool-kit that earned him 20 Major titles. After over 13-months away, physical endurance appears to be the only challenge remaining for the 3-time Doha champion as he continues his come back.
It feels good to be back. I am happy to be standing here regardless of if I won or lost, but obviously winning feels better. It was a good match. Dan played a good match too. He has been a wonderful training partner as well. Over the past two weeks, we played over 20 sets and it went on [tonight]. I said, ‘If I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out swinging.’ Dan had more energy left at the end, but I was serving well and I thought I actually played a really, really good match. I’m incredibly happy about my performance. It was nice to finish off with a backhand down the line.
Roger Federer. Post match interview.
Fourth meeting, first outside a Major. Federer remains undefeated.
Federer and Evans have been regular practice partners for years. In fact, as Roger alluded, they’ve spent the past two weeks training together before arriving in Doha. Tonight’s match was their first since Round-3 of the 2019 US Open, where Roger Federer emerged the victor in 3-sets.
 Roger Federer -06- (SUI) | Round of 16 Announcer Introduction
It has been 13-months, 11-days, 4-hours, and roughly 26-minutes – since we last saw him play…With 6 Australian Open titles, a victory at Roland Garros, 8 Wimbledon crowns, And 5 US Open titles – he is a 20-time Grand Slam Champion – an Olympic Gold Medalist – a Davis Cup Champion – a 3-time Laver Cup Champion – and has captured the year-end ATP Finals a record 6-times. At one point, he held the World #1 ranking for four and a half years straight. And to this day, he remains the only player in tennis history (man or woman) to lift Doha’s falcon 3-times. From Switzerland – 2005, 2006 and 2011 Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion – welcome back, Roger Federer.
- R2 — W — Dan Evans -28- (GBR) | Score: 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5
- R1 — BYE
Daniel Evans -28- (GBR) | Round of 16 Announcer Introduction
Great Britain’s top talent – last month in Melbourne, he captured his first ATP Singles title at the Murray River Open and climbed to a career-high ranking of World #26. Now a 3-time Tour-level Finalist, he also owns 7 Challenger titles – and in 2015, helped lift Great Britain to the Davis Cup World Group Final, where they captured their first Davis Cup title in 79-years. Yesterday, in a thrilling 2-hour 1st-Round clash, he reached Doha’s Round of 16 for the first time with a determined, deciding-set victory over Jeremy Chardy. Competing in his 3rd Qatar ExxonMobil Open – From Great Britain, please welcome Dan Evans.
- R2 — L —  Roger Federer -06- (SUI) | Score: 6-7(8), 6-3, 5-7
- R1 — W — Jeremy Chardy -54- (FRA) | Score: 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 | RECAP
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.