© Samer Alrejjal

Fernando Verdasco is making his eighth appearance at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.

Verdasco On Doha: 'This Is My Home'

Spaniard opens season in Qatari capital

Any player on the ATP Tour will tell you that competing in their hometown is a luxury. For Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha is where he’s had a home-court advantage since moving to the world-class city five years ago.

The local support helped Verdasco kick off his year with a victory on Monday night as he defeated fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-3. He'll next face sixth-seeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic for a quarter-final berth.

“I really feel like this is my home and it's unbelievable,” Verdasco said. “When I first moved in 2016, obviously it was a big change. But now I feel amazing and I'm so happy to be back every time I come during the year.

“Obviously it's not easy because of all the tournaments we have around the world. But every time I have a period of time, I find time to come here, be at home and take care of my house. It's never easy to leave a house for a long period of time.”

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Verdasco was a model of consistency once again last year. The Spaniard reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and advanced to the quarter-finals at four tour-level events, including a run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia that included a victory over World No. 4 Dominic Thiem. He recorded 26 tour-level wins throughout the year, marking 16 consecutive seasons that he’s picked up at least 20 wins. Only Roger Federer (20) has a longer streak.

But at age 36, Verdasco knows he’s closer to the end of his playing career than the beginning. He’s started to think about what he might do next and has already decided it will involve remaining in Doha. He hopes to help shape the future of sport in Qatar and wants his legacy in the country to extend beyond the memories he’s created at this event.

“My friends in Doha, before I came here, were telling me to move here, to help sport and help the country become better in sport. So I thought, why not?” Verdasco said. “I'm at an age already in my career that I have to start thinking -- still hopefully playing tennis for a few more years, but obviously my career is going to come to an end somehow, someday.

“I think that Doha is the place for me that, after my career, I can really help the country to become better in sport. I think that this country is improving amazingly in that way, making huge events. Hopefully in the future, after I finish playing tennis, I can have a spot in Qatar in sport and help the country to become even better and bigger.”

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