Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Jessica Pegula’s Quarterfinal victory over 2017 Doha Champion Karolina Pliskova. The surging American dominated from ball-up, winning six consecutive games in set-2 to earn the victory in just an hour. It’s Jessica’s second top-10 victory. Last month in Melbourne, she upset World #5 Elina Svitolina to reach her first career Grand Slam Quarterfinal. Not to mention, Pegula’s been busy this week. Nearly knocked-out of the tournament in the second round of qualifying – she has now won six consecutive matches and is through to the Semifinals in her Doha debut. Tomorrow marks her 5th career Final-4 appearance on the WTA Tour.
First meeting. Jessica Pegula’s second career top-10 victory.
[Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
It’s only March, but this has already been a year to remember for this 44th-ranked American, making her Qatar Total Open debut. Last month in Melbourne, she defeated both Victoria Azarenka and World #5 Elina Svitolina en-route to her first Grand Slam Quarterfinal at the Australian Open. This week in Doha, she’s won five matches in five days — After three qualifying victories, she knocked out Qiang Wang in Round-1 – then 2016 Doha Finalist Jelena Ostpenko to reach today’s Quarterfinal match. Looking to earn a spot in her fifth WTA Tour-level Semifinal – from the United States, please welcome Jessica Pegula.
- QF — W —  Karolina Pliskova -06- (CZE) | Score: 6-3, 6-1
- R2 — W — [WC] Jelena Ostapenko -51- (LAT) | Score: 6-2, 7-5 | COURT-A
- R1 — W — Qiang Wang -35- (CHN) | Score: 6-3, 6-1 | RECAP
- 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
 Karolina Pliskova -06- (CZE) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Late last night (around 12:30 this morning, more or less) – she defeated Ons Jabeur in a breathtaking 2-hour and 13-minute battle – and is back in the Doha Quarterfinals for the first time since 2017, when remarkably, she won 4 matches in 3-days to capture the title. She’s a Grand Slam Finalist, a 3-time Billie Jean King Cup Champion, owns 16 WTA Singles titles, and spent 8-weeks as the sport’s top-ranked player. Last season, she started the year by lifting the trophy in Brisbane — and after 2020’s pandemic pause, reached her 29th career Final in Rome. Back competing in her 8th Qatar Total Open – From the Czech Republic, please welcome 2017 Doha Champion Karolina.
- QF — L — [Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Score: 3-6, 1-6
- R2 — W — Ons Jabeur -31- (TUN) | Score: 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
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” announcer 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.