The Rise In Popularity Of Tennis In Qatar

The Qatar Tennis Federation is looking to invest in the development of its ATP and WTA events, including plans for a 12,000 seat centre court. The aim is for the Federation to receive an ATP tournament upgrade, changing its status from a 250 event to a 500 tournament, or possibly even becoming a prestigious Masters 1000 event. It is unclear what the exact details of this planned expansion are, but what is clear is the tournament’s growing popularity and success.

An Already Popular Event

The ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open, one of the opening tournaments on the ATP calendar received recognition at this year’s event, being named among the Tournaments of the Year in the 2015 ATP World Tour Awards.

The Tournament of the Year awards is voted annually by players, recognising the leading standards set across the three tournament categories on the ATP Tour. Ticket sales for the event were bigger than ever this year, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal being the biggest draws for the crowd. The tournament will have been delighted to see the top two seeds battle it out in the final, with the world number one easing past Nadal in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. 

The men’s tournament will celebrate its 25th anniversary next January, while Qatar was also a pioneer in developing the sport for women in the country, staging the first women’s tennis tournament in the Middle East in 2001, attracting the likes of Martina Hingis and Mary Pierce to compete.

Carla Suarez Navarro was this year’s victor in the Qatar Total Open event in Doha, defeating the unseeded 18-year-old Jelena Ostapenko 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.

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Suarez Navarro victorious in Doha / Photo: Qatar Total Open Facebook

The Prospect Of Becoming A Masters 1000 Event

As for Qatar Tennis’ hopes to upgrade their tournament to Masters 1000 status, this could be boosted by the Miami Open losing its appeal on expansion, with it now set to move away from Crandon Park. The tournament lawyer said that an exit for the tournament is all but certain after its loss at the hands of the Third District Court of Appeal in December. The Miami Open has an eight-year contract with the city of Miami-Dade but this agreement is no longer valid due to the county failing to provide an updated home for the annual tournament.

With the seconds Masters 1000 event of the year in jeopardy, it could pave the way for a new country acquiring the hot commodity of Masters status. If this in indeed to happen then Qatar will be one of the candidates right near the top of the list, especially if it continues to receive Tournament of the Year awards. An upgrade to an ATP 500 event looks inevitable, especially if this planned expansion goes ahead and a further upgrade to the tournaments status could soon follow if tennis continues to grow in popularity in the Middle East.

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