December 16, 2012 - Doha, Qatar - The Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2013 celebrates 21 years of world-class tennis in Doha. Since 1993, the greatest tennis players in the world have been descending upon the city to showcase amazing athletic prowess on the court. 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 $1,054,720.
This year’s event brings international star Rafael Nadal, 2012 finalist Gael Monfils, world No. 5 David Ferrer and France’s Richard Gasquet to Doha from December 31, 2012 through January 5, 2013. As one of the first events on the ATP World Tour calendar,these players look to make a strong start to their season by kicking off the New Year in the desert. 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 semifinals and then Croatia’s Goran Ivanisevic in the final, 7-6(4), 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, Karim Alami of Morocco, in the quarterfinal and France’s Henri Leconte in the semifinal before defeating countryman Magnus Larsson in the final, 7-6(4), 6-1.
1995 also ushered in the partnership with ExxonMobil. This partnership has continued to grow for the past 19 years.
“We are thrilled to be associated with an event of such prestige and are thankful for our continued partnership with the Qatar Tennis Federation,” said Bart Cahir, President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qatar Inc. “When we initially started sponsoring the tournament, I don’t think anyone could have imagined or predicted what this event would become on the international tennis circuit, or how it would positively reflect on the State of Qatar more thantwenty years later.”
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 Brugera in the semifinals 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(5), 6-2 and remains the only 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 has a record 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 toreturn 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. 2010 champion, Russian Nikolay Davydenko, is returning for his 11th appearance in Doha. Top seed, Spanish star Rafael Nadal, looks to win the Doha singles title for the first time.