Just returned from emceeing the Draw Ceremony for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2015…and, as usual, had a funny wrinkle unravel during the course of the ceremony. Last year, during chip selection, Ernest Gulbis drew Lukas Rosol’s name to play the top-seed Rafael Nadal…Lukas just happened to be seated two chairs down. Ernests offered a fist bump, which Rosol denied.
This year – Dustin Brown, Dusan Lajovic, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Pablo Andujar joined us for the draw – and again, the players were involved in chip selection. Turns out Andujar’s random chip-selection determined who would play the top-seed Novak Djokovic in Round-1…an honor that will fall on fellow Serb, 24-year-old Dusan Lajovic, who was just a seat away from Pablo. Unreal.
First-round play on the left half of the draw:
-  Novak Djokovic vs. Dusan Lajovic
- Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. J.M. Ali Mutawa (WC)
- Mikhail Youzhny vs. (Qualifier)
-  Ivo Karlovic vs. Lukas Rosol
-  David Ferrer vs. (Qualifier)
- Teymuraz Gabashvili vs. Fernando Verdasco
- Paolo Lorenzi vs. Dustin Brown
-  Philip Kohlschreiber vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
First-Round play on the right side of the draw:
-  Richard Gasquet vs. Pablo Andujar
- Simone Bolelli vs. Benjamin Becker
- Juan Monaco vs. (Qualifier)
-  Tomas Berdych vs. Denis Istomin
-  Leonardo Mayer vs. Andreas Seppi
- Joao Sousa vs. Malek Jaziri (WC)
- Ivan Dodig vs. Mohamed Safwat (WC)
-  Rafael Nadal vs. (Qualifier)
Qualifying continues tomorrow at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, with main-draw play starting Monday at 3:30p here in Doha.
Today at the World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi, Novak Djokovic withdrew from the Final versus Andy Murray due to a fever. He’s en-route to Doha now, and is expected to practice tomorrow evening…hopefully, it’s just a “24-hour bug.”
After falling to Andy Murray in the Semifinals (2-6, 0-6), Rafael Nadal won Abu Dhabi’s 3rd-place match today, taking down Stan Wawrinka in straight-sets (7-6, 6-3). With his first win since the appendectomy in November, Rafa fans can’t wait for his return to Doha, where he won the title last year.
TOP-10 WATCH: While Novak(1), Rafa(3), Berdych(7) and Ferrer(10) will play here in Doha, Stan Wawrinka(4) elected to start 2015 in Chennai. Roger Federer(2), Kei Nishikori(5), and Milos Raonic(8) jump-start the year in Brisbane, while Andy Murray(6) heads to Perth for the Hopman Cup with Heather Watson – though Andy did suffer an unusual left-shoulder injury in his Semifinal with Rafa on Friday. Marin Cilic(9) withdrew from Brisbane with a right shoulder injury last Tuesday.
And so the season begins…