Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Taylor Fritz’s validating Quarterfinal victory over Denis Shapovalov. Last August in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Fritz was up a set and break on Shapovalov during Round-3 of the US Open. Up 5-3 in the 4th-set, Taylor failed to serve it out and ultimately lost the match in a 5th set. Echoes of that loss reverberated late in tonight’s decider when Shapovalov broke to reach 5-all; but Fritz broke right back – and this time, served out the victory. The win is even sweeter considering Taylor’s 2-hour and 35-minute deciding-set tiebreak victory last night over the 6-seed David Goffin.
Fourth meeting, first victory for Fritz. An affirming win after a tough loss at the US Open.
Before tonight, Denis Shapovalov won all of their previous matches – most recently in Round-3 of last August’s US Open. It was a tremendous match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Down a set and a break, Shapovalov came back to win the 4th-set in a tiebreak, then earned victory in the deciding set.
Taylor Fritz -33- (USA) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Here in Doha for the first time – he defeated Lorenzo Sonego in Round-1. And last night, earned a determined victory over World #14 David Goffin in a tremendous deciding-set tiebreak; winning it 11-9, to reach the Quarterfinals in his Qatar ExxonMobil Open debut. He owns 1 ATP Singles title, is a 5-time Finalist and owns six career wins over top-10 opponents; including a Laver Cup victory over Dominic Thiem in Geneva. Ranked as high as World #24 – last month in Melbourne, he took World #1 Novak Djokovic to 5-sets in the 3rd-Round of the Australian Open. Making his center court debut here in Doha – From the United States, please welcome Taylor Fritz.
- QF — W —  Denis Shapovalov -11- (CAN) | Score: 5-7, 6-3, 7-5
- R2 — W —  David Goffin – 14- (BEL) | Score: 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(9) | COURT-A
- R1 — W — Lorenzo Sonego -35- (ITA) | Score: 7-6(5), 6-4 | COURT-A
 Denis Shapovalov -11- (CAN) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Also here in Qatar for the first time, this top-ranked Canadian southpaw is this year’s #4-seed; and yesterday, defeated countryman Vasek Pospisil to reach today’s Quarterfinal match. He owns 1 ATP Singles title, is a 3-time Finalist – and last September, reached his first Grand Slam Quarterfinal at the US Open, then the Semifinals at the Rome Masters – and cracked the ATP’s top-10 for the first time. He’s a Davis Cup Finalist, a 2-time Team-World Laver Cup veteran, and owns 7 career wins over top-10 opponents – including his first 4-years-ago, when as an 18-year-old Wild Card in Montreal, he upset World #2 Rafael Nadal. From Canada – please welcome World #11, Denis Shapovalov.
- QF — L — Taylor Fritz -33- (USA) | Score: 7-5, 3-6, 5-7
- R2 — W — Vasek Pospisil -67- (CAN) | Score: 7-5, 6-4 | COURT-B
- R1 — BYE
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.