DOHA, January 2, 2016
The Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016 witnesses 24 years of world-class tennis in Doha. Since 1993, the greatest tennis players in the world have been descending upon the city to headline the action. The tournament, hosted by the Qatar Tennis Federation at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, has become the highest prize-money event of the ATP World Tour’s 250 Series events with this year’s total purse being US-$1,189,605.
This year’s event brings world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, World No. 5 Rafael Nadal, World No. 6 Tomas Berdych and seventh ranked and defending champion David Ferrer from January 4 to 9, 2016. World No. 9 Richard Gasquet was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a back injury.
“Very happy to be in Doha soon for the Qatar Open. It is always a great way to start the season. Always found great warm at that event from the staff and spectators. Fantastic event. See you soon,” Nadal stated.
Djokovic landed in Doha at 2:30 am on Wednesday, in preparation to start the new season in Qatar’s capital city. In his second appearance in Doha, Djokovic was greeted in Doha Airport by tournament director Karim Alami.
“Here we come to a new season! I am so happy to kick it off in Qatar again, where the event is so well organized and I was well treated last year. I am so excited to come back and compete at my best in this opening tournament,” the world number one stated.
Alami, said of this year’s field: “We are incredibly honored to have another year with players of the highest caliber coming to the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The week in Doha kicks off the ATP World Tour season and these players are looking to hit the courts fresh from their end of season break. Novak returns to Doha as world No. 1 for second consecutive year, Rafael Nadal is looking to win his second Doha title, Ferrer will try to defend his title from last year.”
The 32-singles player field and 16-team doubles competition showcases the greatest tennis talent in the world – a tradition that dates back to the very first playing of the event. German superstar Boris Becker began his 1993 season by coming to the inaugural event of the men’s professional tennis in Doha. Even in the event’s very first year, the tournament boasted a strong player field and Becker had to defeat Sweden’s Stefan Edberg in the semi-finals and then Croatia’s GoranIvanisevic in the final, winning 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. Edberg returned to Doha the following year and improved his showing, reaching the final and going on to win by defeating Paul Haarhuis of The Netherlands, 6-3, 6-2.
After that success, Edberg returned to win again in 1995. He had to take out current Qatar ExxonMobil Open tournament director, KarimAlami of Morocco, in the quarterfinal and France’s Henri Leconte in the semifinal before defeating countryman Magnus Larsson in the final, winning 7-6, 6-1.
1995 also ushered in the partnership with ExxonMobil. This partnership has continued to grow for the past 20 years.
US-American Jim Courier’s run to the title in 1997 saw him playing formidable opponents from the very first match. He had to defeat Sjeng Schalken of The Netherlands, Romania’s Razvan Sabau, Austrian powerhouse and then-World No. 5 Thomas Muster in the quarterfinal, and Spain’s Sergi Bruguera in the semi-finals before coming up against Great Britain’s Tim Henman in the final. After splitting the first two sets, Courier defeated Henman 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 and remains the only US-American to hold the men’s singles trophy in Doha.
It was third time lucky for France’s Fabrice Santoro. Having reached the final in 1998, losing to Petr Korda of the Czech Republic, he returned only to lose in the first round in 1999, to Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui. But 2000’s appearance in Doha proved to be fortuitous for “The Magician”. He played 1999 champion, Rainer Schuettler, in the finals. Schuettler and Santoro split the first two sets before the German had to retire in the third set. Santoro continued to come to Doha for the following six years – making an astounding nine appearances total in the desert.
Younes El Aynaoui, who is the current Qatar’s national team coach, has a record of 13 appearances in Doha. His appearance in 2002 was the start of his most successful year on the ATP World Tour. He won the title in Doha by defeating Argentina’s Guillermo Canas in the final, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and went on to win titles in Casablanca and Munich as well. As the place of his first singles title, the Moroccan legend chose to return to Doha in 2010 for his final professional tournament. He lost in the second round to Steve Darcis of Belgium and then retired from the game.
Recent years have had the current stars of the game start their ATP World Tour seasons in Doha. Switzerland’s Roger Federer won the title in 2005, 2006 and 2011. This year, Nadal looks to add to his Doha title he won in 2014 and David Ferrer will try to defend his title from 2015.