Doha: An Unpredictable Player Dinner

Wow. Behind the scenes, the 2015 Player’s Party here in Doha was completely unpredictable. Novak Djokovic has been struggling with a fever and could only join us for about 30-minutes, H.E. Nasser bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi’s flight was running late, and Rafa – as only he can do – was running on Rafa-time.

No worries, though. Thanks to the tournament’s Higher Organizing Committee, players, fans and sponsors were covered…with a fabulous meal from Doha’s Four Seasons Hotel, and dynamic entertainment featuring laser violinists “Lumina,” family friendly ventriloquist Mark Thompson, and amazing mentalist Christopher Carter.

H.E. Nasser bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi arrived at 9:00, immediately followed by Rafa and a peaked looking Nole. Kudos to Djokovic for getting out of bed for the formalities. He hasn’t been feeling well since before withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi exhibition final with Andy Murray yesterday. With their arrival, we immediately presented special gifts to the top-5 seeds, had a quick photo-op, then welcomed Alistair Routledge of ExxonMobil and His Excellency to kick-off the tournament and the 2015 season.

H.E. Nasser bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Happy New Year. It is with great honor that I can welcome everyone to the official players dinner party for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2015. We are very glad to see all the players join us this evening.

I would especially like to thank Mr. Alistair Routledge, the President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qater Incorportated and to all of our sponsors for the support of this great event.

We thank all the players and all the fans for being a part of the success of this sport and our tournament, and I hope you have a wonderful evening tonight and a wonderful time in Doha for the rest of the week.

Thank you!

Christopher Carter then took us on a wild ride using Rafa and David Ferrer (the same two targets who spent a lot of time on stage last year) to light florescent bulbs with their bare-hands and telepathically deliver thoughts to each other. It was quite extraordinary, to tell the truth.

Nadal and Ferrer then helped me present new MacBook Pro’s to three lucky attendees who answered a few Qatar ExxonMobil Open trivia questions. Here’s what we learned:

  • Boris Becker played in the longest final in the history of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, in the tournament’s very first year (35-games). Only David Ferrer guessed correctly
  • Mikhail Youzhny is playing here for the 11th time in his career.  Everyone nailed it – after all, Andreas Seppi and Phillip Kohlschreiber were the other two choices
  • And finally, the past 22 champions of this tournament represent 13 different countries. Again, David Ferrer was the only one to guess correctly, going three for three

The night ended with a packed-house of players mixing with sponsors, guests and dignitaries; reconnecting with friends and competitors. Then the Zimonjic twins took to the stage, dancing to Doha Jazz…as Nenad and his wife pretended to leave them with us, while they retired to the room. Ha! – But seriously…those are some seriously adorable kids.

The Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2015 starts tomorrow at 3:30p at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Djokovic is scheduled to play doubles with countryman Filip Krajinovic on Court-2 tomorrow night. We’ll see if he’s up for it…giving all of us a better idea of how rough his condition has been since Friday’s semifinal win in Abu Dhabi.

Monday’s order of play (5 January 2015):

CENTER COURT start 3:30 pm
S Bolelli (ITA) vs B Becker (GER)
Not Before 5:30 pm
[6] R Gasquet (FRA) vs P Andujar (ESP)
T Gabashvili (RUS) vs F Verdasco (ESP)
L Rosol (CZE) vs [7] I Karlovic (CRO)

COURT 1 start 3:30 pm
Qualifying – B Kavcic (SLO) vs R Ram (USA)
Not Before 5:30 pm
I Dodig (CRO) vs [WC] M Safwat (EGY)
After Suitable Rest
S Bolelli (ITA) / L Mayer (ARG) vs J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP)

COURT 2 start 3:30 pm
Qualifying – M Bachinger (GER) vs M Berrer (GER)
D Brown (GER) vs P Lorenzi (ITA)
After Suitable Rest
[WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / F Krajinovic (SRB) vs [WC] J Ali Mutawa (QAT) / M Jaziri (TUN)

COURT 3 start 3:30 pm
Qualifying – F Krajinovic (SRB) vs N Basilashvili (GEO)
D Inglot (GBR) / F Mergea (ROU) vs D Istomin (UZB) / M Youzhny (RUS)
After Suitable Rest
[3] J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) vs S Lipsky (USA) / R Ram (USA)

COURT 4 start 3:30 pm
Qualifying – T de Bakker (NED) vs F Dustov (UZB)