Spectators streamed into the Khalifa Tennis Complex yesterday for the start of the 2014 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, which featured top athletes like world number one Rafael Nadal and number four Andy Murray, and included a surprise upset.
Monday saw an abrupt end to the tournament for Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who is the 7th highest-ranked player in the world, after he was defeated by 77th-ranked Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the first round after a tight match of 7-6, 7-6.
Meanwhile, Nadal, who pulled out of the tournament last year due to a knee injury, said he was happy to start the season in Doha this year. “Last year, (it) was hard not have the chance to start the season from the beginning,” he said to journalists during a press conference.
“The goals are very similar all the time – just health (is the) most important thing. Without health, the rest is impossible.”
At another press conference, Murray, who is the reigning Wimbledon Champion and a two-time Doha tournament winner, spoke of Qatar’s changing landscape.
“It’s changed a lot here since the last time I was here. I mean, the skyline is ‑‑ I mean, there are some pretty amazing buildings which weren’t here the last time I was here,” he said. “I guess it’s only going to keep getting better, I would have thought, over the next few years’ buildup to the World Cup.”
This afternoon, Murray will face Qatar’s Moussa Zayed.
On the sidelines of the games, the “Public Village” on the tournament’s grounds is hosting activities for fans, including autograph sessions yesterday with world number three David Ferrer and defending champion Richard Gasquet. It also features a traditional souq area, kids’ zone and merchandising booths.
Spectators spoke positively about the tournament’s organization and activities held. Matt Pearson, a 49-year-old British expat, said he was pleased with the availability and reasonable ticket prices compared to back home.
“Here we have paid the equivalent of 5 Pounds Sterling and you can get as close to the players as you want,” he said. “It’s great.”
John Varghese, a 15-year-old from India, particularly liked the Public Village. “It is a really nice atmosphere here,” he said. “The entertainment section is very good, especially the food and the play area.”
The $1 million tournament is running until Jan. 4, with matches in both singles and doubles. For both categories, the quarterfinals will be held on Thursday, the semifinals on Friday and the finals on Saturday.
Tickets are available for purchase online at qatartennis.org and at Villaggio, City Center, Lagoona, and Landmark malls, as well as the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex from 10am-9pm.
Will you be watching the tournament? Thoughts?