Announcer for the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Andy Taylor recaps Nikoloz Basilashvili’s Semifinal victory over Taylor Fritz. Oozing the same stoic poise he exemplified the night prior versus Roger Federer – Basilashvili shook-off an early break, then assumed complete control after capturing set-1 in a tiebreak. The quest for the Georgian’s 4th title continues tomorrow night, in his 6th career Tour-level Final.
Truthfully, it has been a memorable week for both Basilashvili and Fritz. Sure, Nikoloz captured headlines with his Quarterfinal win over Federer, but Fritz delivered some momentum-building victories as well. The American outlasted David Goffin in a deciding set tiebreak, then backed-up that marathon with a redemptive 3-set victory over Denis Shapovalov. Tonight marked Taylor’s 9th career Semifinal. Several positives for both to take out of the week.
Second meeting, first win for Nikoloz Basilashvili.
These two top-talents have met once before – 4-years-ago during Round-2 in Chengdu, China. Taylor Fritz won that match in a deciding set.
Nikoloz Basilashvili -42- (GEO) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
Two-years-ago on this court, he took World #1 Novak Djokovic to deciding-set. Last night – he saved a match point and defeated his childhood idol – and arguably the greatest ever to play the game, Roger Federer – advancing to Doha’s Semifinals for the first time. Ranked as high as World #16, he owns 3 ATP-500 Singles titles, is a 5-time Tour-level Finalist – and with his victory last night, owns five career wins over top-10 opponents – including a straight-sets victory over World #4 Juan Martin Del Potro to capture the 2018 China Open title. Competing tonight in his 10th career Tour-level Semifinal – From Georgia, please welcome Nikoloz Basilashvili.
- SF — W — Taylor Fritz -33- (USA) | Score: 7-6(3), 6-1
- QF — W —  Roger Federer -06- (SUI) | Score: 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 | RECAP
- 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
Taylor Fritz -33- (USA) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
Through to the Semifinals in his Doha debut – he defeated Lorenzo Sonego in Round-1 – World #14 David Goffin in Round-2 – and yesterday, scored his first career victory over World #11 Denis Shapovalov, capping the match with a gutsy break late in the 3rd, to serve-it-out in the decider. He won his first ATP Singles title 2-years-ago in Eastbourne – and tonight, is through to his 9th career Tour-level Semifinal. Ranked as high as World #24, he owns six career wins over top-10 opponents – and last month, took World #1 Novak Djokovic 5-sets in Round-3 of the Australian Open. Fighting for a spot in his 6th ATP Tour Final – from the United States, please welcome Taylor Fritz.
- SF — L — Nikoloz Basilashvili -42- (GEO) | Score: 6-7(3), 1-6
- QF — W —  Denis Shapovalov -11- (CAN) | Score: 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 | RECAP
- 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
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.