Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Marton Fucsovic’s deciding-set, Round of 16 victory over qualifier Lloyd Harris. Both rode waves of recent success into the match. Last night, Harris defeated Stan Wawrinka to reach Round-2 in his Doha debut. Meanwhile – just three nights prior – Fucsovics contested his first ATP-500 Final in Rotterdam; a few weeks after outlasting Stan Wawrinka in a 5th-set tiebreak at the Australian Open.
Second meeting, first victory for Fucsovics.
These two clashed once before – 18-months-ago in Round-1 of China’s Chengdu Open. Lloyd Harris came back from a set-down to win that match — then won two more to reach his first ATP Tour level Semifinal.
Marton Fucsovics -46- (HUN) | Round of 16 Announcer Introduction
Back in Doha for his 3rd Qatar ExxonMobil Open – Just 3-days-ago, he reached his first ATP-500 Final in Rotterdam, where he earned 6 victories in 6 days to reach the championship match as a qualifier. In fact, the last six months have been extraordinary. At Roland Garros in September, he earned his first top-5 victory – defeating 2-time Grand Slam Finalist Daniil Medvedev in the opening round. And last month in Melbourne, earned a 5th-set tiebreak victory over Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open. In all, he owns 1 ATP Singles title, is now a 3-time Finalist, and is through to the Round of 16 here in Doha for the 3rd year in-a-row. From Hungary – please welcome Marton Fucsovics.
- R2 — W — [Q] Lloyd Harris -84- (RSA) | Score: 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2
- R1 — W — Dusan Lajovic -27- (SRB) | Score: 7-6(3), 6-3 | COURT-A
[Q] Lloyd Harris -84- (RSA) | Round of 16 Announcer Introduction
This year’s top qualifying seed – last night, he earned the biggest win of his career – defeating his childhood idol and 3-time Grand Slam Champion Stan Wawrinka – in an epic 2-hour and 40-minute battle that featured two tiebreak sets and a 7-5 victory in the decider. Years of hard work, determination and persistence are starting to pay dividends for the 24-year-old — Last season, he reached his first ATP Final in Adelaide, climbed to a career-high ranking of World #72 – and last month in Melbourne, reached Round-3 of a Major for the first time. From South Africa, through to the Round of 16 in his Doha debut – please welcome, Lloyd Harris.
- R2 — L — Marton Fucsovics -46- (HUN) | Score: 6-4, 6-7(5), 2-6
- R1 — W —  Stan Wawrinka -20- (SUI) | Score: 7-6(3), 6-7(6), 7-5 | RECAP
- Q2 — W — Lukas Lacko -197- (SVK) | Score: 6-4, 6-3 | RECAP
- Q1 — BYE
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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.