Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Jessica Pegula’s Round-1 victory over Qiang Wang. As a qualifier, the surging American has won four consecutive matches to reach Round-2 in her Doha debut. Now a top-50 talent, she’s compiled a list of career firsts since the 2020 season resumed from the pandemic “pause.” Check out her announcer introduction below.
Second meeting, first in 8-years. Pegula remains undefeated
It had been over 8-years since these two talents first met in the Final Round of Qualifying in Shenzhen, which was a tremendous match. Back then, Jessica Pegula emerged the victor 7-5 in the second, after a 1st-set tiebreak.
[Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
Making her Qatar Total Open debut – as the top qualifying seed, she’s already earned three match victories this week. And for her – the past 8-months has been extraordinary. When the 2020 season resumed in August, she reached her first WTA-1000 Quarterfinal at the Western & Southern Open. The following week at the US Open, she reached Round-3 of a Major for the first time. At Roland Garros, she made her Grand Slam Quarterfinal debut in Doubles – and then last month in Melbourne, upset both Victoria Azarenka and World #5 Elina Svitolina en-route to her first Grand Slam Singles Quarterfinal. From the United States, please welcome Jessica Pegula.
- R1 — W — Qiang Wang -35- (CHN) | Score: 6-3, 6-1
- Q3 — W — Misaki Doi -83- (JPN) | Score: 6-2, 6-2
- Q2 — W — Anastasia Potapova -88- (RUS) | Score: 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-6(6)
- Q1 — W — Gabriela Dabrowski -495- (CAN) | Score: 6-0, 6-1
Qiang Wang -35- (CHN) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction
Competing in her 6th Qatar Total Open, this Asian Games Gold Medalist is in pursuit of her first main draw victory here in Doha. In 2018 – she was remarkable. She won her first two WTA Singles titles, was a 4-time Finalist, and qualified for the WTA Elite Trophy – where she reached the title match in her year-end championship debut. A year later, she upset World #2 Ashleigh Barty at the US Open, reached her first Grand Slam Quarterfinal, and jumped to a career-high ranking of World #12. And let’s not forget the 2020 Australian Open, where she stunned Serena Williams to make her Round of 16 debut in Melbourne. From China, please welcome Qiang Wang.
- R1 — L — [Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Score: 3-6, 1-6
2021 Qatar Total Open: Different Date. Unusual Circumstances.
In 2021, due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the WTA Tour rescheduled the Qatar Total Open to take place the first week of March. A portion of the season typically carved-out for week-1 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, in January Abu Dhabi hosted the season’s first event. A WTA-500 tournament specifically created to get players back on court. Dubai then hosted Australian Open qualifying, 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, the WTA hosted several new tournaments in Melbourne Park. All designed as lead-up events to the season’s first Major. After Oz, Adelaide hosted its postponed tournament, while most traveled to the Arab Gulf to prepare for the Qatar Total Open and Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Doha: Rebranded in 2021 from Premier to a WTA-500 Tournament
The WTA also rebranded the 2021 Qatar Total Open a WTA-500 event, after the Tour realigned its tournament tier structure during the off-season. Rather than International, Premier, Premier-5 and Premier Mandatory; starting in 2021, all WTA events became classified as WTA-250, WTA-500 and WTA-1000 tournaments (similar to the ATP Tour).
Moving forward, the Qatar Total Open and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will continue to alternate the WTA’s two Arab Gulf events. More specifically, on “even” years the Qatar Total Open will host the WTA-1000 event with a field of 64. Consequently, during “odd” years, it will feature a WTA-500 event with a field of 32.
Coronavirus: Delivering a top-shelf international event responsibly
While the Qatar Tennis Federation allowed fans to attend the 2021 Qatar Total 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, WTA 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 was required to wear 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” on-court interviews and trophy presentations – the Qatar Tennis Federation and WTA 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.