Doha Dispatch: Wozniacki, Muguruza and more share passion for Qatar

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You’re unlikely to find a player in the draw that doesn’t enjoy being in Doha for the Qatar Total Open. (Photos Courtesy of Pantic)

DOHA — You’re unlikely to find a player in the draw that doesn’t enjoy being in Doha for the Qatar Total Open, even if they lose (or withdraw).

“It's a nice city. The weather is perfect this period, and also the people are very nice [to] me,” Simona Halep said. “So I enjoy my time here.”

At first glance, it may seem strange given how far Qatar is from most player's home countries and how foreign the culture can seem. There are certainly a lot of rules and traditions in the Islamic nation, but there’s also a sense of ease and warmth—and that’s not just talking about the weather.

Hospitality is paramount in Doha, with everyone offering a helping hand (and they all speak English). The players are treated like royalty—much like when they’re at Grand Slams. The tournament hotels are a Marriott Marquis and a Four Seasons resort with a private beach. 

“We're staying at an unbelievable hotel, one of the best tournament hotels I think all year,” CiCi Bellis said. “We've been down to the beach a lot. So nice, really relaxing; feels like we're on vacation.”

Need a ride? Hop in one of the official Jaguars. Want a practice court? No problem, there’s plenty of newly resurfaced courts to go around. How about some fresh food? The local Arabic cuisine in Qatar is like a blend of Mediterranean and Indian, with tons of fruits and vegetables. Johanna Konta is a fan:

“It’s my first time to Doha. I think the courts are great. There's enough court and facilities,” Konta said. “So far I'm actually enjoying the food. I'm having hummus with hummus right now, a lot of it, which I'm really enjoying.”

The Gulf capital city’s skyline is impressive, with an array of architectural beauties to marvel at. As in any big city, pollution and constant construction go hand-in-hand with the view.

“I think it's just so modern and new,” Garbine Muguruza said. “Every time I come here there is like 17 buildings more, and it's impressive. I think that for us to come here, it's good because they treat us very well, and we have everything we need to play.”

While tourists want to take advantage of the sights (like camel rides in the nearby desert), players are more concerned with convenience and comfort—something Doha has in excess.

“I think it's also one of the best tournaments,” 2017 champion Karolina Pliskova said. “The hotel is amazing. I know it's not the high season here, so there are not many people, which is great for us so we don't have many people in the restaurants.”

Walking around the tournament grounds, you’ll be met by a blend of old and new. The traditional village is where you’ll find shops selling local food and clothing as well as henna and hookah. There's also a separated seating area for men and women.

Right next to the village is a modern food court (souvenirs, t-shirts, hamburgers and pizza) with mixed seating. Much like the dining options, the local attire varies widely with women in burkas and men in thobes alongside fans in t-shirts and jeans.

Tennis is not quite a booming sport in Qatar, but that’s not due to lack of effort. Promotional posters plaster surfaces all around the city from buildings to taxis, and there’s enough money supporting the Qatar Total Open to make it a Premier 5. Spectators—like almost anywhere else—appear more steadily in the evenings and weekends.   

Most of the reason so many big names appear in Doha is the prestigious level (Premier 5) with six former and current No. 1’s in the draw at the start of the week. But it certainly doesn’t hurt that they enjoy their experience in the Middle East as well.

“It's great to be back,” world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki said. “The court suits me well, and obviously it's a very relaxing place. I really enjoy being back.”

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