Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Garbiñe Muguruza’s Quarterfinal victory over Maria Sakkari. It was their second meeting this year, and redemption for Garbiñe’s straight-sets loss in Abu Dhabi. The 2018 Doha Finalist has been hot ever since. She was a Finalist at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, reached the Quarters at the Australian Open – and yesterday, defeated defending champion Aryna Sabalenka. Tonight’s win was Muguruza’s most clinically accurate performance of the week. Once again, she’s hitting her stride in the Arab Gulf.
Second meeting. Muguruza avenges week-1 loss to Sakkari in Abu Dhabi.
Garbiñe and Maria faced-off for the first time during week-1 of the season in Abu Dhabi. Sakkari went-on to reach the Semi’s, and backed it up with another Semifinal run at the Grampian’s Trophy in Melbourne. Muguruza, after her Aussie quarantine, went-on to reach her 13th career Final at the Yarra Valley Classic.
Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
Last night, she won a thrilling, deciding-set battle over defending champion Aryna Sabalenka – and is back in the Quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open, where she reached the championship match 3-years-ago. A 2-time Grand Slam Champion, she 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. And last month in Melbourne, she contested her 13th career Tour-level Final at the Yarra Valley Classic. Back for her 6th Qatar Total Open – From Spain, please welcome 2018 Doha Finalist, Garbiñe Muguruza.
- QF — W — Maria Sakkari -25- (GRE) | Score: 6-3, 6-1
- R2 — W —  Aryna Sabalenka -08- (BLR) | Score: 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 | RECAP
- R1 — W — Veronika Kudermetova -34- (RUS) | Score: 6-2, 7-6(4) | RECAP
Maria Sakkari -25- (GRE) | Quarterfinal Announcer Introduction
With wins this week over Egyptian sensation Mayar Sherif and World #19 Madison Keys, she is through to the Doha Quarterfinals for the first time. When she arrived here in Doha last year – she had just cracked the WTA’s top-20 after reaching Round-4 of a Major for the first time at the Australian Open. While the pandemic interrupted the season, it had NO impact on her momentum. When play resumed – she upset Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Open, reached the Round of 16 at the US Open, and ended 2020 with a Semifinal run in Ostrava. With 2-more Semifinal-runs under her belt to start 2021 (in Abu Dhabi and the Grampians Trophy) – tonight, she’s looking to reach her 3rd Semifinal of the year. From Greece, please welcome Maria Sakkari.
- QF — L — Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Score: 3-6, 1-6
- R2 — W — Madison Keys -19- (USA) | Score: 6-2, 6-2 | COURT-A
- R1 — W — [WC] Mayar Sherif -114- (EGY) | Score: 6-0, 6-3 | COURT-A
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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.