Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Roberto Bautista Agut’s Quarterfinal victory over this year’s top-seed and reigning US Open Champion Dominic Thiem. The deciding-set win marks the 2019 Doha Champion’s 7th career triumph over a top-5 opponent. His 4th career top-5 win happened on this court two years ago, when he defeated World #1 Novak Djokovic to reach the Final.
It was a very tough fight. Dominic is a very good player. He gives 120 per cent. I tried to give more than 120 today. I had to play very good to beat him and it was one of the greatest players I had in front of me today.
Roberto Bautista Agut. Respect for Thiem during on court interview.
Fifth meeting, first victory for Roberto Bautista Agut since 2015.
Roberto Bautista Agut won their first three encounters in 2015. However, Dominic Thiem won their most recent clash before tonight, 3-years-ago in the St. Petersburg Semifinals.
 Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Two-years-ago on this court, he lifted Doha’s falcon during week-1 of the season, capturing his 9th ATP Tour Singles title. And it was truly a remarkable week for the Spaniard. In the Semifinals – down a set and a break – he rallied back to upset World #1 Novak Djokovic to reach the championship match (where he defeated Tomas Berdych in a deciding set). Later that year, he reached his first Major Semifinal at Wimbledon, cracked the ATP’s top-10 for the first time, and led Spain to the Davis Cup title in Madrid. A Finalist in Montpellier just 11-days-ago, he is now a 17-time Finalist on Tour. Through to this year’s Quarterfinals with wins over Reilly Opelka and Alexander Bublik – From Spain, please welcome 2019 Doha Champion, Roberto Bautista Agut.
- QF — W —  Dominic Thiem -04- (AUT) | Score: 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4
- R2 — W — Alexander Bublik -44- (KAZ) | Score: 6-4, 6-3 | COURT-A
- R1 — W — Reilly Opelka -39- (USA) | Score: 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 | RECAP
 Dominic Thiem -04- (AUT) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
He returns to Doha as the World #4 and this year’s top-seed. Yesterday, down a set, he came back to defeat Australian Open Semifinalist Aslan Karatsev to reach tonight’s Quarterfinal match. Now a 4-time Major Finalist – in September, he captured his first Grand Slam Singles title at the US Open – coming back from 2-sets down to defeat Sascha Zverev in a thrilling, deciding-set tiebreak. Then in November, he capped the shortened season by reaching the championship match of ATP Finals for the second straight year. In all, he now owns 17 ATP Singles titles, is a 28-time Finalist, a 2-time Laver Cup Champion, and has been ranked as high as World #3. Back for his 4th Qatar ExxonMobil Open – From Austria, please welcome this year’s top-seed, Dominic Thiem.
- QF — L —  Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Score: 6-7(3), 6-2, 4-6
- R2 — W — [WC] Aslan Karatsev -45- (RUS) | Score: 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 | RECAP
- 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.