Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Petra Kvitova’s Semifinal victory over Jessica Pegula. Petra is now 12-1 on this court since capturing the Doha title 3-years-ago. Absent in 2019, last year she reached the Final again, falling to Aryna Sabalenka. Tomorrow marks her 3rd successive Qatar Total Open Final.
Meanwhile, American Jessica Pegula had another stellar week. She’s been on the climb since the 2020 season resumed from the “pandemic pause.” Now ranked inside the top-50, the qualifier earned six victories in Doha – including a win over World #6 Karolina Pliskova. On Monday, she’ll be ranked inside the top-35. Momentum. Confidence. Belief.
Second meeting in 7-months. Petra Kvitova wins again.
These two talents first met last August in Arthur Ashe Stadium during Round-3 of the US Open, where Petra Kvitova emerged the victor in 2-sets. Had there been New York fans in attendance, it could have been a much different outcome. Jessica Pegula had some highlight worthy moments – like an opening break in the second set – that could have altered momentum with screaming fans.
 Petra Kvitova -10- (CZE) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
Since 2018, she’s earned 12 match victories on this court, and only suffered one loss. 3-years-ago, she lifted Doha’s Falcon for the first time – defeating World #1 Caroline Wozniacki in the Semi’s, then Garbine Muguruza in the Final. Last year, she defeated World #1 Ashleigh Barty in the Semi’s – and returned to the championship match. In all, she owns 27 career Singles titles, has been ranked as high as World #2, and back in October – reached her 7th Grand Slam Semifinal at Roland Garros. From the Czech Republic, please welcome 2-time Wimbledon Champion, Olympic Bronze Medalist, and 2018 Qatar Total Open Champion, Petra Kvitova.
- SF — W — [Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Score: 6-4, 6-4
- QF — W — Anett Kontaveit -24- (EST) | Score: 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 | RECAP
- R2 — W — Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova -41- (RUS) | Score: 6-1, 6-3 | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
[Q] Jessica Pegula -44- (USA) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
It’s only March, but it has already been a year to remember for this 44th-ranked American, making her Qatar Total Open debut. Last month at the Australian Open, she defeated both Victoria Azarenka and World #5 Elina Svitolina en-route to her first Grand Slam Quarterfinal. This week in Doha – as a qualifier – she’s won six matches in six days – including a dominant victory yesterday over World #6 Karolina Pliskova to earn a spot in her first career WTA-500 Semifinal. 2-years-ago, she captured her first WTA Singles title in Washington DC – and tonight, is in pursuit of her 4th career Tour-level Final. From the United States, please welcome Jessica Pegula.
- SF — L —  Petra Kvitova -10- (CZE) | Score: 4-6, 4-6
- QF — W —  Karolina Pliskova -06- (CZE) | Score: 6-3, 6-1 | RECAP
- 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
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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.