ABU DHABI // Rafael Nadal could make his long-awaited comeback in Abu Dhabi just before the end of the year.
The Spaniard was the surprise inclusion in the six-player line-up for the fifth Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which was announced yesterday.
The 26 year old has not featured in a tournament since losing in the second round at Wimbledon in June. But championship organisers are confident he will be fully fit to play in Abu Dhabi.
“We wouldn’t be announcing him today if we didn’t have confidence that he wouldn’t be here,” said Greg Sproule, the managing director of IMG Middle East. “Everything is on track in terms of his fitness and recovery of his left knee.”
Heading the stellar line-up at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City from December 27 to 29 will be Novak Djokovic, the world No 2 and defending champion, in a tournament which offers a US$250,000 (Dh918,200) winner-takes-all prize.
Joining the Serb and the world No 4 Nadal will be Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych, the world Nos 3, 5 and 6, along with the rising Serb Janko Tipsarevic, the world No 9.
Roger Federer, the world No 1, is missing the Abu Dhabi event for the first time.
Sproule said the organisers had invited the three previous Abu Dhabi winners – Murray, Nadal (twice) and Djokovic – and three of the rising stars from the ATP.
“I think most people would agree there are four major players these days and it includes Roger, Andy, Novak and Rafael, and of the four we are celebrating the winners of the previous years,” he said at yesterday’s press conference.
“We had some discussions with Roger but, ultimately, the theme was past winners; that’s what we stuck with.
“I think it is fair to say Andy Murray is the most talked about player in tennis today because of an incredible summer with his Olympic gold medal and the US Open grand slam title. And we hope he carries that kind of momentum in to Abu Dhabi. We understand Roger is greatly popular. However, we can’t have all the players that we want all the time but we think we have is the best line-up of players we can possibly secure.”
Organisers also noted the significance of the event ahead of next year’s first major, the Australian Open, which starts on January 14.
“Last year Novak won this title on his debut and went on to win his third grand slam title at the Australian Open, just demonstrating the importance of the Abu Dhabi event,” Sproule said.
“The Abu Dhabi championship has gone from strength to strength since its inauguration four years ago. We believe this event is a true success story by every measure, and the facts are testament to all that is achieved to put Abu Dhabi on the global tennis stage.”
Amina Taher, Mubadala’s head of community engagement, said they were looking forward to three days of exciting competition. “And for the local community, it is so much more than just a weekend of entertainment,” she said.
“The championship is leaving a lasting legacy in Abu Dhabi by inspiring a new generation into tennis through dedicated community initiatives like the Mubadala Tennis in School programme and the Mubadala Community Cup leading up to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.”
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