The draw of 32 for the six-day Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2019 tennis extravaganza, which begins at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex on Monday, has thrown up some intriguing first round matches.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland will meet third seed and World No. 11 Karen Khachanov of Russia while Andrey Rublev, who played Gael Monfils in the final here last year, will face Italian Andreas Seppi.
Second-seeded Canadian Dominic Thiem drew Qatar ExxonMobil Open debutant Herbert Pierre-Hughes of France.
Twice winner of Qatar ExxonMobil Open in 2016 and 2017, World No. 1 and the top seed here, Novak Djokovic of Serbia will be meeting Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Mubarak Shannan Zayed was drawn to play a qualifier and could well fancy his chances to making the second round of the ATP Tour 250 tourney.
Held on Saturday evening at the Four Seasons Hotel, the draw was supervised by Tournament Supervisor Lars Graff along with the tournament’s gold badge referee Ashraf Hamouda in the presence of Tariq Darwish Zainal, Secretary-General of Qatar Tennis Federation and General Coordinator of the tournament, Abdullatif al Naemi, Vice President and HR Manager, ExxonMobil, Karim Alami, Tournament Director, Saad al Mohannadi, QTF Executive Director, and players Marco Cecchinato of Italy,
Robin Haase of Netherlands, Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France and Marius Copius of Romania.
With world’s top-25 ranked players making the 65 best players’ list, the tournament will see some top competition.
The draw list includes four qualifying players and with one withdrawal, another lucky loser has been added to the main draw.
Interestingly, the man who went on to win his first ATP tile at the 2018 Hungarian Open as a lucky loser and who had defeated Djokovic at the French Open quarters in 2016 – Marco Cecchinato of Italy – drew a qualifier as his first round opponent. The Italian is No. 20 now and given the draw can be expected to go the distance.
Dutch Robin Haase, who meets young Chilean Nicolas Jarry, was left pondering the battle.
“There’s never an easy draw. I play a very talented and younger opponent in Chilean N Jarry someone who’s been coming up the rankings and who’s playing really well. He’s a dangerous player with a big serve and a big backhand, so I have to be ready. I will be pushed on to my defence on multiple occasions, but I will also need to be offensive,” he said.
On his possible next round opponent being Wawrinka or Khachanov, he said, “I never look at the round ahead because it will be like guessing who it could be so I never do that. I’d rather concentrate on my first match and go from there.”
On his future expectations Haase quipped, “I don’t have any expectations because I think they are the mother of all disappointments. I just try to do my best and work on my game like I have in the last two years with my new coach and its going well.”
Despite finding the World No. 8 Dominic Thiem against him, tournament debutant Pierre-Hughes Herbert was quite in his elements and fancied chances.
“Yes, I have a tough draw. It’s not easy to play the second seed straight up. Dominic is an amazing player, he’s finished the year many a time being in the top-10 and he’s a tough opponent to beat. But I am looking forward to this match and I’m going to try my best. The last time I played him (two years ago at Rotterdam), I played really well and I had a chance to win,” he said.
On being in Doha for the first time, he said he’s got all the positive feelings.
“It’s my first visit to Qatar and I’m still discovering it. But, I find it to be a great place. The courts and stadium is amazing and the people are welcoming. So all positive feelings so far for me and I am looking forward to the week ahead,” he added.
Romanian Marius Copil, who plays Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, was left with mixed feelings of battling a friend and a doubles partner.
“It’s going to be an interesting clash. We’ve played each other before three times and they all have been good matches.
We were also supposed to play doubles here together but then we switched partners. But we shall be teaming up at the Australian Open. We’re good friends, it’s going to be tough playing against each other, but it’s an honour at the same time.
“We both had a great 2018 and to be here straight in the main draw among the world’s top players is a great feeling,” he explained.
Tariq Darwish Zainal, QTF Secretary-General, said he hoped for the stars to provide the fireworks and big time entertainment to the spectators.
“I believe this year we have the biggest stars here in Doha. Usually at Qatar ExxonMobil Open we have stars participating and this year we have Novak Djokovic, the World No.1, we have Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Dominic Thiem, Karen Khachanov, David Goffin, Andrei Rublev and other upcoming stars and this is what we provide the spectators.
“The draw is quite interesting. Khachanov and Wawrinka clash first up. Qatar’s Shanan Zayed is to play a qualifier, so there could be a lot of surprises.
We hope to a packed stadium come Monday when the tournament proper begins,” said Zainal.
Men Singles (1st Round)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Damir Dzumhur (BIH)
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) vs. Marius Copil (ROU)
Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs. Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) vs.  Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)
 Karen Khachanov (RUS) vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Robin Haase (NED) vs. Nicolas Jarry (CHI)
[WC] Mubarak Zayed (QAT) vs. Qualifier/Lucky Loser
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs.  Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
 David Goffin (BEL) vs. Qualifier/Lucky Loser
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) vs. Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Guido Pella (ARG) vs. [WC] Cem Ilkel (TUR)
Qualifier/Lucky Loser vs.  Marco Cecchinato (ITA)
 Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs. Qualifier/Lucky Loser
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) vs. [WC] Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Qualifier/Lucky Loser vs. Peter Gojowczyk (GER)
Pierre-Hughes Herbert (FRA) vs.  Dominic Thiem (AUT)
By Vinay Nayudu
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