ABU DHABI // If Novak Djokovic is to add to his impressive 2011 titles haul when he makes his debut in Abu Dhabi next month then he is going to have to do it the hard way.
The world No 1, who has this year won Wimbledon and both the US and Australian Opens, has been drawn to play on the opening day of the Mubadala Mubadala World Tennis Championship on December 29.
Five of the top six ranked players in the world have confirmed they will play in the capital, along with Gael Monfils, the world No 15, who is Djokovic’s opponent in the first match.
“With players of this class and calibre, all from the leading players in the world and among the greatest of all-time, the draw was always going to produce some epic encounters but this line-up is truly sensational,” Shatha Al Romaithi, of Flash Entertainment, said after the draw.
“There will definitely be some explosive tennis and a special atmosphere on centre court for those fortunate enough to witness some of the greatest rivals in world sport go head to head in Abu Dhabi.”
The first semi-final sees Federer, the all-time men’s grand slam singles titles leader, play Djokovic or Monfils, while Nadal, the 10-time grand slam champion, lies in wait for the winner of the opening day match between David Ferrer, the world No 5 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No 6.
The championship features the strongest ever line-up in Abu Dhabi and anywhere in the world outside the ATP World Tour Season in 2011.
“To have the world No 1 debut in Abu Dhabi on the opening day makes this without a doubt the most exciting day one line-up in the tournament’s history,” Al Romaithi said.
“Novak’s form has been devastating this season, but the response from those rising up the world ranking such as Ferrer, Tsonga and Monfils means every player is a genuine title contender with unmissable action and titanic clashes expected from the very first shot on day one.”
That first match at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City pits Ferrer against Tsonga, who are both making their second appearances in Abu Dhabi. It is expected to be a close encounter with both players sharing one victory each in their previous two meetings on the ATP Tour.
The second match on opening day features the two tournament debutants with Monfils, coming off his most successful season yet on the ATP Tour having risen at one point to a career high world No 7, taking on the form player of the year. Looking ahead to the semi-finals, if the matches go on rankings, Abu Dhabi will enjoy a repeat of this year’s memorable French and US Open semi-finals already regarded as sporting classics, with Djokovic taking on Federer, whose return to form at the weekend saw him became the first player to contest the final of all nine Masters 1000 tournaments at the BNP Paribas Masters.
His victory over Tsonga in the Paris final gave the Swiss 18 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns.
Ticket for the three day championship are available at www.thinkflash.ae, or call 800 FLASH (35274).