Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps defending champion Andrey Rublev’s unlikely fortune in Doha. Last year, thanks to rain, the Russian was forced to win both his Quarterfinal and Semifinal matches on the same day to reach the Final. This year, he is through to the Semifinals without playing a single match. After a 1st-Round BYE, Richard Gasquet withdrew yesterday from their Round of 16 clash. Today, Marton Fucsovics – who fell to Rublev just 4-days-ago in the Rotterdam Final – withdrew before their Quarterfinal.
So, while Andrey advanced to the Semifinals without playing a single match, tournament supervisor Thomas Karlberg moved Andrey’s Doubles Semifinal to center court. Teamed with Australian Open Semifinalist and ATP Cup Teammate Aslan Karatsev, the pair defeated 2017 Doha Champions Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin to reach the Doubles Final. Click here for the Doubles Semifinal recap.
Would have been their 5th meeting, and second match in just 4-days.
Just four days ago, these two rivals met in Rotterdam’s championship match – where Andrey Rublev earned his 8th ATP Singles title. Each has won two of their previous matches.
 Andrey Rublev -08- (RUS) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
On Sunday night, he captured his 4th consecutive ATP-500 Singles title with his victory in Rotterdam ; and yesterday, advanced to today’s Quarterfinal with a walkover. The defending Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion and 2-time Finalist; last year, he lifted Doha’s Falcon week-1 of the season – winning four straight matches, without dropping a set. Remarkably – he won 5 titles last year (despite the shortened season) – and climbed to a career high ranking of World #8 – earning a spot in the year-end ATP Finals for the first time. This year – he’s at again. Week-1 in Melbourne, he went undefeated – anchoring Russia’s victory at the ATP Cup – and with the win in Rotterdam, now owns 8 ATP Singles titles in 10 career Finals. From Russia – please welcome the returning Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion, Andrey Rublev.
- QF — w/o — Marton Fucsovics -46- (HUN)
- R2 — w/o — Richard Gasquet -50- (FRA) | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
Marton Fucsovics -46- (HUN) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Back in Doha for his 3rd Qatar ExxonMobil Open – The man is a machine. Just 4-days-ago, he reached his first ATP-500 Final in Rotterdam. There, as a qualifier, he earned 6 victories in 6 days to reach the championship match – then after the Final, hopped on a flight to Doha – where he’s won back-to-back 3-set matches to reach today’s Quarterfinal. Last September – he upset 2-time Grand Slam Finalist Daniil Medvedev in the opening round at Roland Garros. And last month in Melbourne, earned a 5th-set tiebreak victory over Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open. Ready for a rematch of Sunday Night’s Final in Rotterdam – From Hungary, please welcome Marton Fucsovics.
- QF — w/o —  Andrey Rublev -08- (RUS)
- R2 — W — [Q] Lloyd Harris -84- (RSA) | Score: 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 | RECAP
- R1 — W — Dusan Lajovic -27- (SRB) | Score: 7-6(3), 6-3 | COURT-A
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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 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.