Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Garbiñe Muguruza’s Round-2 victory over defending champion Aryna Sabalenka. Without question, the best match of the tournament so far – Aryna recovered from back-to-back breaks late in the second; then forced a third set in the tiebreak. After the decider’s second changeover, Garbiñe hit her stride again. The 2018 Doha Finalist won four straight games to earn her spot in the Quarterfinals.
2nd meeting. Muguruza’s first win and 37th career top-10 victory.
Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Round-2 Announcer Introduction
A Finalist here in Doha 3-years-ago, she is a 2-time Grand Slam Champion, owns 7 WTA Singles titles, and in 2017 – spent four weeks as the sport’s top-ranked player. Last year – she reached her 4th Major Final at the Australian Open, her 9th WTA-1000 Semifinal in Rome, and broke back inside the top-15. Last month in Melbourne, she reached her 13th career Tour-level Final at the Yarra Valley Classic – dropping only 10-games in 4-matches en-route to the championship match. Competing in her 6th Qatar Total Open – on Monday, she defeated Veronika Kudermetova to return to the Round of 16. From Spain, please welcome 2018 Doha Finalist, Garbiñe Muguruza.
- R2 — W —  Aryna Sabalenka -08- (BLR) | Score: 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3
- R1 — W — Veronika Kudermetova -34- (RUS) | Score: 6-2, 7-6(4) | RECAP
 Aryna Sabalenka -08- (BLR) | Round-2 Announcer Introduction
She is the defending Qatar Total Open Champion. Last year on this court, she defeated 2018 Champion Petra Kvitova to lift the Falcon in her Doha debut – earning her 3rd WTA-1000 Singles title. Since then – in spite of the global pandemic – her trophy case continues to fill. Last month, she captured her 2nd Grand Slam Doubles title at the Australian Open and became the #1 Doubles player in the world. Before the start of the Australian Summer – she won 3 consecutive Singles titles (in Ostrava, Linz and Abu Dhabi) – a 15-match win streak that catapulted her to a career-high Singles ranking of World #7. Undefeated in Doha – from Belarus, please welcome 2020 Qatar Total Open Champion Aryna Sabalenka.
- R2 — L — Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Score: 2-6, 7-6(5), 3-6
- R1 — BYE
[divider style=”solid” color=”#cccccc” opacity=”0.5″ icon=”arrow-down” icon_color=”#666666″ icon_size=”15″ placement=”down”]
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.