Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Rafael Nadal will aim to go one better in Abu Dhabi.
Rafael Nadal will aim to go one better in Abu Dhabi.

Capitala WTC: Take Two today

The Capitala World Tennis Championship impressed all in its first year. The focus now is to get it on the ATP Tour.

ABU DHABI // When the inaugural Capitala World Tennis Championship was announced in November last year, the event was subject to sniggering from some ATP insiders. How could Abu Dhabi, with little tennis history and no tennis heritage, host an exhibition tournament and have the audacity to call it an international event?

The organisers' high-profile announcement was accompanied by confirmation that six of the world's top 10 players would be competing in the three-day competition. The cynics, however, remained unimpressed: money talks, they said. But then it was announced only the winner would collect a cheque - albeit for US$250,000 (Dh918,336) - while the rest, organisers assured, would return home empty-handed. This tournament, they proposed, was simply an opportunity to prepare competitively before the season-opener in nearby Doha the following week.

Still the critics scoffed: what are the benefits of hosting an event that would surely be no more than a glorified training session? And where would they even play this exhibition "extravaganza"? When the 2009 competition got under way on January 1, both questions were answered - and with more force than a Rafael Nadal forehand smash. Like a desert mirage, the International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City appeared from nowhere. Perfect facilities and pristine courts were given a fitting global showcase as six of the world's best players displayed spirit and determination in a quest to win the inaugural trophy.

Gone were the quips that this was solely an exhibition: the competitive streaks were on show for all to see. Andy Murray, having been forced into a tie-breaker by Roger Federer in their semi- final, defeated Nadal 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in the Saturday showpiece finale. Reports were carried everywhere, from the New York Times to TV New Zealand, and they almost all carried images of the UAE capital. The emirate's promotional plan had worked.

Murray's victory was emulated the following week in Qatar and the Scot went into January's Australian Open in blistering form. But, with the heat of the Melbourne sun and the pressure that comes with the first grand slam of the season, he crashed out in the fourth round in five sets to Spain's Fernando Verdasco, with the man he beat in the final Nadal going on to take the top honours in the opening grand slam of the year

This year, he has decided to skip the Abu Dhabi event in a bid to combat the potential of peaking too soon once again. Robin Soderling, David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka have all signed up instead, while Federer, Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko all return. One thing that is unlikely to return, however, is the criticism. Last year's event was so well- received that rumours are already doing the rounds regarding a possible women's tournament in the future.

Organisers have refused so far to be drawn on the subject, yet it seems a natural progression for an event that attracted more than 13,000 spectators over three days last year. But it is a potential place on the ATP Tour that is surely the organisers' ultimate goal. With Doha and Dubai already mainstays on the calendar, Abu Dhabi has the potential to complete a trio of Middle Eastern events; a Desert Swing in a similar ilk to golf's European Tour.

Such evolution would require serious adjustments to the season's schedule - there is at present a five week gap between the Doha and Dubai tournaments, two weeks of which incorporate the Australian Open - but it is a definite possibility. ATP officials will, as they were last year, be in attendance this weekend and they will be keeping an eager eye on proceedings. The on-court action gets under way today with Davydenko taking on Ferrer, and Soderling and Wawrinka going head to head in the evening, and the organisers will hope they put on a show to entertain the public and demonstrate again Abu Dhabi has a future in the tennis world.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Al Ahli's Ismail Al Hammadi, left, battles for the ball during the Arabian Gulf Cup final between against Al Jazira at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on April 19, 2014. Al Hammadi hit the game-winner in the 81st minute for Ahli. Al Ittihad

Al Ahli maintain course for domestic treble with victory over Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup

Al Ahli maintained their hopes of a domestic treble with a superb comeback victory against Al Jazira in the Arabian Gulf Cup final on Saturday night.

 Alex Kacaniklic, left, of Fulham tackles Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur during their Premier League match at White Hart Lane on April 19, 2014, in London, England. Clive Rose / Getty Images

Tottenham keep pace in chase for European places with victory over Fulham

Swansea appear to be safe after rallying past Newcastle while Crystal Palace continue their winning streak

 On a track described as a ‘tyre-killer’ in Shanghai, Lewis Hamilton went untested on his way to a 34th pole – the most by a British driver – yesterday. Carlos Barria / Reuters

Hamilton has sympathy for fans hung out to dry with wet tyre rules

The Briton takes his career's 34th pole - the most by a British driver - but sympathises it was not ideal for the ticket-paying public.

 Yuzvendra Chahal, centre, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore teammates celebrate after the bowlers set up an easy win over Mumbai Indians. Pawan Singh / The National

Bowlers set up Bangalore as Patel stand tall over Mumbai

Mumbai bowlers gave early hope but Parthiv Patel and AB de Villiers' unbeaten stand of 99 ensures second defeat for the men in blue in Dubai.

 Roelof Kotzee is leading UAE to unchartered territory. Sarah Dea / The National

UAE step into the unknown ahead of Asian Five Nations

Performance manager Roelof Kotze will give 12 players their first experience of international rugby, but there is also minimal information on Singapore ahead of first Test in Dubai on Wednesday, reports Paul Radley.

 Novak Djokovic of Serbia winces in pain during his semi-final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 19, 2014. Federer prevailed to set up an all-Swiss final with Stanislas Wawrinka. SEBASTIEN NOGIER / EPA

Ailing Djokovic will ‘just rest now’ while Nadal not pressing the panic button

Djokovic says only rest will help is injured right wrist after he falls to Roger Federer on Saturday, and Nadal suffers just his third career defeat in Monte Carlo when he slumped to a shock 7-6, 6-4 quarter-final loss to compatriot Ferrer on Friday.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National