Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Nikoloz Basilashvili’s Quarterfinal victory over Roger Federer. An unexpected defeat, but not astonishing considering the fact that Doha was Roger’s first event in over 13-months. The 20-time Major champion won a deciding-set thriller over Dan Evans in his triumphant return a day earlier, and his lack of match fitness became apparent following tonight’s opening set.
That said, before this week, Nikoloz Basilashvili hadn’t won a match since week-1 of the season. With wins over John Millman, Malek Jaziri and now Roger Federer – perhaps the tide is finally beginning to turn for Georgia’s top-talent.
It is unbelievable. He is one of the greatest of all time. To just play him means so much to me. I am really happy that he came back and is playing again. To win against him is a dream come true for me. He was always my idol and I am sure he is to many tennis players and fans. He is an unbelievable player, so I am extremely happy.Nikoloz Basilashvili. On court post-match interview.
Second meeting, and significant achievement for Basilashvili.
Roger and Nikoloz played once before – 5-years-ago in Round-1 of the Australian Open; where Roger Federer emerged the victor in straight sets.
I’m happy how I played today. Happy how I did yesterday. I’m happy I’m back on the Tour. I’m pleased I came here to Doha. So it’s really, really a positive return for me. I’m really happy.Roger Federer. Proud of his return in press conference.
Nikoloz Basilashvili -42- (GEO) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Two-years-ago on this court, he took World #1 Novak Djokovic to deciding-set – and returns to Doha’s Quarterfinals with victories this week over John Millman and Malek Jaziri. Ranked as high as World #16, he owns 3 ATP-500 Singles titles, is a 5-time Tour-level Finalist, and owns four career wins over top-10 opponents – including a straight-sets victory over World #4 Juan Martin Del Potro to capture the title at the 2018 China Open. Competing in his 5th Qatar ExxonMobil Open; through to the Quarterfinals for a second time – From Georgia, please welcome Nikoloz Basilashvili.
- QF — W —  Roger Federer -06- (SUI) | Score: 3-6, 6-1, 7-5
- R2 — W — [WC] Malek Jaziri -262- (TUN) | Score: 6-2, 6-2 | COURT-B
- R1 — W — John Millman -41- (AUS) | Score: 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 | COURT-A
 Roger Federer -06- (SUI) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Last night, in his first match in over 13-months, he won a deciding-set thriller over Dan Evans – electrifying fans here in Doha and the millions tuned-in around the world. 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. In all, he owns 103 career ATP Singles titles – and held the World #1 ranking for 310-weeks combined. And to this day, he remains the only player in tournament history to lift Doha’s falcon 3-times. From Switzerland – please welcome 2005, 2006 and 2011 Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion, Roger Federer.
- QF — L — Nikoloz Basilashvili -42- (GEO) | Score: 6-3, 1-6, 5-7
- R2 — W — Daniel Evans -28- (GBR) | Score: 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5 | RECAP
- R1 — 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.