Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps 2019 Doha Champion Roberto Bautista Agut’s Semifinal victory over 2020 Champion Andrey Rublev. Under difficult, blustery conditions – Bautista Agut proved more consistent, while Rublev struggled with accuracy.
But its unfair to fault the Russian for a lack of rhythm. Not only were conditions markedly different than they had been all week; tonight’s Semifinal match was Andrey’s first match of the tournament. Following a 1st-Round Bye, both Richard Gasquet and Marton Fucsovics withdrew before Rublev’s Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches.
So, while Roberto Bautista Agut advanced to his second consecutive Doha Final (he didn’t play here last year), Andrey Rublev set his sights on capturing the Doubles title with partner Aslan Karatsev. The tandem won three matches in three days without dropping a set; including victories over the #4-seeds Jean-Julien Rojer / Marcelo Melo, and 2017 Doha Champions Jeremy Chardy / Fabrice Martin.
Needless to say, it was an unusual week for the defending champion. With Roger Federer’s triumphant return taking-up most of the oxygen; it was easy to lose sight of Andrey’s impressive momentum. On Sunday night in Rotterdam – while most were already in Doha – Andrey captured his 8th career and 4th successive ATP-500 title.
In tonight’s nightcap, he captured his 2nd career Doubles title. Walkover frustration aside in the Singles draw, it was another productive week in Doha.
Fifth meeting, first win for Bautista Agut since 2018. Second top-10 victory this week.
5th meeting between these two former Doha Champions. Roberto Bautista Agut won their first two clashes in 2015 and 2018. Before tonight, Andrey Rublev won their most recent battles – in the 2019 Davis Cup Finals and last September in the Hamburg Quarterfinals.
 Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
Back in Doha’s Semifinals – Two-years-ago on this court, he lifted Doha’s falcon during week-1 of the season, capturing his 9th ATP Tour Singles title – in a remarkable week of victories. In the 2019 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 12-days-ago, a victory tonight will earn him a spot in his 18th career Tour-level Final. From Spain, please welcome 2019 Doha Champion, Roberto Bautista Agut.
- SF — W —  Andrey Rublev -08- (RUS) | Score: 6-3, 6-3
- QF — W —  Dominic Thiem -04- (AUT) | Score: 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 | RECAP
- 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
 Andrey Rublev -08- (RUS) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
He is the reigning Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion – and this week in Doha, has advanced to the Semifinals without playing a single match. It’s crazy – after a 1st-Round Bye – both Richard Gasquet, then Marton Fucsovics withdrew with injuries before their scheduled matches with the World #8. And so tonight, he begins his title defense in the Semifinals – just six days after capturing his 8th ATP Singles title in Rotterdam. 3-years-ago, at just 20-years-old, he reached his second career Singles Final on this court. Last year, he played out of his mind – capturing titles here in Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Vienna – Five titles in a season that saw a 5-month suspension, due to the pandemic. That, is incredible. From Russia, please welcome 2-time Doha Finalist and the defending Qatar ExxonMobil Open Champion, Andrey Rublev.
- SF — L —  Roberto Bautista Agut -13- (ESP) | Score: 3-6, 3-6
- QF — w/o — Marton Fucsovics -46- (HUN) | RECAP
- R2 — w/o — Richard Gasquet -50- (FRA) | 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.