DOHA/STARNBERG, March 8, 2021
Main draw action got underway on Monday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open held at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha. Aslan Karatsev emerged victorious from the battle of the wild card entries with unranked Mubarak Shannan Zayid of Qatar, winning 6-4, 6-0.
The 27-year-old Russian, who became one of the biggest stories of the 2021 Australian Open when he reached the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut, sent down four aces and won 89 per cent of his first-service points to advance after 64 minutes.
Karatsev, sitting at a career-high ranking of World No. 45, will be the first opponent of the tournament’s top seed Dominic Thiem on Wednesday. The 27-year-old Austrian is set to return to the circuit for the first time since falling in the fourth round in Melbourne to Grigor Dimitrov.
“It took me a while to digest the whole thing. The whole trip was exhausting in Australia with quarantine. It was a very strange trip. That makes the whole thing very difficult, of course. I left Australia with a really bad and also sad feeling because I lost in the fourth round,” Thiem said during his virtual pre-tournament press conference on Monday.
“I didn’t do very well in Australia, but now it’s time to focus on new things. The tournament in Doha is the first chance to play better again, to get good results, to get confidence and to forget a pretty tough start of the season.”
Bublik defeats Ramanathan
Alexander Bublik opened his Doha campaign with a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 win over Indian qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan. The World No. 44 from Kazakhstan saved all four break points he faced, capitalized on three of his own six break-point opportunities and finished the match with an underam serve after one hour and 13 minutes.
Underarm FTW 🤪
Alex Bublik pulls out the underarm serve on match point… pic.twitter.com/QcvmHcPVsA
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 8, 2021
Up next for Bublik will be No. 5 seed and 2019 champion Roberto Bautista Agut from Spain, who fought past big-serving US-American Reilly Opelka 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and three minutes.
Richard Gasquet of France defeated Slovenian qualifier Blaz Rola 6-4, 6-4 for his first victory of the season. The 34-year-old capitalized on two of his three break-point chances to advance in one hour and 15 minutes.
“Of course it’s great for me to come here… I have great memories playing here. It’s one of the best tournaments in the world, so of course it’s great for me to come back and I hope to play good,” Gasquet said during his on-court interview. “I know the next opponent will be tough, but I have nothing to lose and I’ll try my best to win.”
The 2013 champion will next take on red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev, who clinched his fourth consecutive ATP 500 title at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last Sunday.
— Qatar Tennis Federation (@QatarTennis) March 8, 2021
ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, MARCH 09, 2021
CENTRE COURT start 2:30 pm
J. Chardy (FRA) vs D. Evans (GBR)
[LL] N. Gombos (SVK) vs [WC] M. Jaziri (TUN)
Not Before 6:00 pm
[Q] L. Harris (RSA) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
 D. Goffin (BEL) vs F. Krajinovic (SRB)
COURT A start 2:30 pm
[Q] C. O’Connell (AUS) vs V. Pospisil (CAN)
J. Millman (AUS) / D. Vega Hernandez (ESP) vs [WC] B. Rola (SLO) / M. Zayed (QAT)
Not Before 5:00 pm
D. Lajovic (SRB) vs M. Fucsovics (HUN)
M. Arevalo (ESA) / M. Middelkoop (NED) vs  N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
COURT B start Not Before 3:30 pm
N. Basilashvili (GEO) / A. Bublik (KAZ) vs F. Nielsen (DEN) / T. Puetz (GER)
Not Before 5:00 pm
K. Krawietz (GER) / R. Opelka (USA) vs  M. Melo (BRA) / J. Rojer (NED)
A. Karatsev (RUS) / A. Rublev (RUS) vs L. Sonego (ITA) / A. Vavassori (ITA)
COURT 1 start Not Before 5:00 pm
After Suitable Rest – J. Chardy (FRA) / F. Martin (FRA) vs J. Erlich (ISR) / A. Vasilevski (BLR)