Doha: Showtime. A Magical Player’s Gala Dinner.

Held again at the Four Seasons in Doha, the Qatar Total Open player dinner was elegant, yet completely laid-back for 2015. Perhaps that speaks volumes about the players in this year’s draw, how far they’ve come, comfortable with thier accomplishments and continued ambition; most simply enjoying the opportunity to relax and catch-up with familiar faces seen mostly covered in sweat on the other side of the net.

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×300.png” width=”300″ align=”right” title=”Tweet. Vika and Caro.” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Tweet. Vika and Caro.”]We heard from the chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee for the Qatar Total Open: His Excellency Nassar bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi. Managing Director of Total E & P Qatar Guillaume Chalmin thanked the players and pledged Total’s continued support of the tournament. Then local artist and Qatar University student Thamer Mubarek Al Dossari presented the tournament with original artwork, which has become Total’s signature and stamp for this year’s Open.

After a few special gift exchanges, dinner was served as we fired-up the entertainment. First up, Frenchman Johannes “The Ladder Man” impressed all in attendance with his balance and dexterity, juggling while moving easily across the stage perched high atop a free-standing ladder. Then, combining acrobatics and ballet, “Ballet on Shoulder” impressed with their elegant routine. Finally, magician James More (Britain’s Got Talent) took the stage with elaborate, choreographed card-tricks, mind-blowing illuisions, and even spent some time convincing Caroline Wozniacki that his magic…is real. (See Vika’s tweet below)

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×169.png” width=”300″ align=”left” title=”Johannes “The Ladder Man”” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Johannes “The Ladder Man””]At the conclusion of the entertainment, I always take the stage to test the players, dignitaries and sponsors with some Qatar Total Open trivia, featuring some not-so challenging questions about the history of the tournament. Everyone receives a ticket when they arrive, and I simply call out numbers like it’s a bake-sale raffle. Kinda funny, really. Now, I’m not sure how both Vika and Caroline received multiple tickets…but I’m told there will be an investigation!

This year we learned that not only has Vika been a back-to-back Doha titlist, Anastasia Myskina won two consutive titles here in 2003 and 2004. We were all reminded that Martina Hingis was the first ever Doha champion in 2001. And Racquel Kops-Jones guessed correctly the number of countries represented over the past 12 years of champions. (Here are your options: Six, seven, or eight? – What do YOU think?)

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Each winning guest (and Racquel) won MacBook computers courtesy of the Qatar Tennis Federation. Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki presented them with their winnings – typically a nice touch and memorable moment for guests of presenting sponsors.

Before you know it, two hours have come and gone and eveyone heads back to their rooms to put their game face on. Main draw play starts tomorrow at 3:30 at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Monday features five first round singles matches, one doubles match and four final-round qualifying matches.

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MONDAY. Qatar Total Open 2015. Day One. First Round.
[7] Venus Williams (USA) vs Casey Dellacqua (AUS)
[8] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs [WC] Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) vs Francesca Pennetta (ITA)
Lucie Safarova (CZE) vs Sam Stosur (AUS)
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) vs Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Andreja Klepac (SLO) / Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) vs [4] Racquel Kops-Jones (USA) / Abigail Spears (USA)

MONDAY. Qatar Total Open 2015. Day One. Qualifying. Final Round.
Saisai Zheng (CHN) vs Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU)
Stefanie Voegele (SUI) vs Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) vs [6] Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)
Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) vs Daria Gavrilova (RUS)