Announcer for the 2021 Qatar Total Open, Andy Taylor recaps Garbiñe Muguruza’s fortune in Doha. Three years ago, she advanced to the championship match when Simona Halep withdrew before their Semifinal clash (toe injury). Tonight, she advanced to the Qatar Total Open Final again without having to play her Semifinal. Moments before the match, Victoria Azarenka released a statement announcing her withdrawal due to a back injury.
Would have been 5th meeting. Retirements and Walkovers dominate Head-to-Head.
This would have been the 5th meeting between these two top talents. Each has won two of their previous matches. 11-years-ago, Victoria Azarenka won their first meeting in 2 tiebreak-sets, in Miami’s Round of 16. This past September, Garbiñe Muguruza won their last clash in the Rome Quarterfinals, in a deciding set.
Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
A Finalist here in Doha 3-years-ago – On Wednesday, she knocked-out defending champion and World #8 Aryna Sabalenka. Last night, she defeated Maria Sakkari in straight sets, and is back in the Qatar Total Open Semifinals for a second time. She’s 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 season, she reached her 4th Major Final at the Australian Open, and broke back inside the top-15. Last month, she reached her 13th career Tour-level Final at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne. From Spain, please welcome 2018 Doha Finalist, Garbiñe Muguruza.
- SF — w/o — [8/WC] Victoria Azarenka -14- (BLR) | Walkover
- QF — W — Maria Sakkari -25- (GRE) | Score: 6-3, 6-1 | RECAP
- 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
[8/WC] Victoria Azarenka -14- (BLR) | Semifinal Announcer Introduction
She is a 2-time Qatar Total Open Champion and 3-time Doha Finalist. In 2012, she lifted the Falcon for the first time – and a year later, defended her title with a deciding-set victory over Serena Williams. In 2015, she reached the championship match again, and owns an outstanding 17-2 overall record on this court. Last night – injured and playing through pain – she courageously persevered, overcoming World #5 Elina Svitolina to reach her 4th consecutive Doha Semifinal. A 2-time Australian Open Champion and 3-time US Open Finalist – she owns 21 career Singles titles, and tonight is in pursuit of her 41st Tour-level Final. From Belarus, please welcome 2-time Doha Champion Victoria Azarenka.
- SF — w/o — Garbiñe Muguruza -16- (ESP) | Walkover | BACK INJURY
- QF — W —  Elina Svitolina -05- (UKR) | Score: 6-2, 6-4 | RECAP
- R2 — W — [Q] Laura Siegemund -56- (GER) | Score: 6-4, 6-2 | RECAP
- R1 — W — Svetlana Kuznetsova -39- (RUS) | Score: 6-2, 6-3 | RECAP
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.