After a crazy few weeks of football fever (what a month December 2019 was), the crowds are turning to tennis. A new year beckons in Doha and with it the events that every tennis fan in the country has been looking forward to. The Qatar ExxonMobil Open, part of the ATP World Tour 250 series of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour, rolls into town this month, followed by the WTA women’s tour (Qatar Total Open) in February. We’ve sorted you out with these mini guides to everything you need to know about the tournaments.
QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN 2020
The ExxonMobil Open 2020 still has a strong field of players, which means this tournament is one of the most unpredictable yet. As the first major tournament of the new tennis season, the players are fresh and raring to go and it’s great preparation en route to the Australian Open. The striking purple courts against the stunning backdrop of West Bay towers is always a sight to behold and it’s easily one of the most popular tournaments for the players to come to.
A closer look
The Qatar Men’s tournament has been running for 27 years and has featured some of the best male players to ever pick up a raquet. Roger Federer holds the record for the most titles with three to his name. Rafael Nadal is a four-time doubles winner here, too. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are also notable previous winners.
Players to watch
In the singles draw, Stan Wawrinka, world number 16 and Olympic gold medalist, is ranked as the top seed. Wawrinka has never won the championship in Qatar but has been a finalist in 2008. He’s been described by many as having the best backhand in the game and on his day, hes’ a match for anyone on the tour. He’ll be keen to get off to a good start to the year with a win.
French fans will be cheering on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who won the competition in 2012, and former top 10 player, Richard Gasquet. They will be following in the tradition of fellow Frenchman Gaels Monfils, a four-time finalist.
Although Novak Djokovic will not be here this year, Serbian fans will have Laslo Đere and Filip Krajinović to root for. Both are top 50 players and will be keen to put in a good performance.
In between the points being played, keep an eye out for celebrities in the audience. In previous years, David Beckham and Xavi Hernandez have been known to enjoy a feast of tennis from the stands.
The men’s tournaments start on the Monday January 6 with the final of the singles scheduled to take place on Saturday January 11. A doubles tournament also takes place during the same dates. Matches in the early rounds will commence late in the afternoon and go on until late evening. The doubles final will take place just before the singles final at 6pm on Saturday January 11.
What’s at stake
A prize fund of over $1.3 million is available to the players, with the winner taking home a cheque for almost $100,000. Not bad for a week’s work, we’re thinking.
QATAR TOTAL OPEN
The WTA women’s tournament popularly known as the Qatar Total Open starts on February 23 and runs until February 29 (yes, 2020 is a leap year). The line-up is yet to be confirmed, but previous editions have featured a glittering array of the best female players in the world.
Last year’s edition was won by Belgian Elise Mertens in a three-set thriller against former world number one Simona Halep. Sixty four players will start the tournament to be whittled down to the top two by the end of the week. As the players are over a month into the season, the women’s tournament is played at a high level, with players at their peak.
The women’s game promises to be extremely competitive in 2020 and as with most years, the winner will really have to fight it out. The prize money on offer is huge and dwarfs the men’s tournament, with $2.9 million up for grabs.
The WTA event has been running since 2001 and has had some famous winners from the tennis hall of fame. Martina Hingis won its inaugural edition, followed by Monica Seles in 2002. Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki have been notable finalists in recent years.
Around the grounds
Previous years have featured a range of entertainment options for children and adults including magicians and acrobats. The sponsors of the tournament will have promotional stands throughout, so expect a few freebies and goody bags. If you feel inspired by the professionals, various tennis academies are also at hand to provide lessons and courses for children and adults, too.
QATAR TENNIS FEDERATION
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments are run by the Qatar Tennis Federation. Along with hosting these two major international events, the federation is responsible for the development of tennis in the country and the Khalifa Stadium Complex serves as a training centre for talented youngsters in Qatar.
Members of the public can book a tennis court during the week and who knows, you could even be playing right next to a future champion.
Tickets are available at all the major malls in Qatar and can also be bought on the Qatar Tennis Federation website. Ground passes, that give you access to all of the outside courts, can be bought for QR25 for the first three days and QR30 for the quarter finals onwards. The free seating tickets are on a first come, first served basis. Seated allocated seats are available and range from tickets in the upper tier, to the VIP seats where you can be right up close to the action.
Spectators with physical disabilities can contact the ticketing department management at the tournament offices.
From QR25. Jan 6-11. Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex (4440 9666). For tickets: www.qatartennis.org/.qeo2020ticket/.