ABU DHABI // The last time Andy Roddick visited the UAE he returned to the United States triumphantly holding the Dubai Championship trophy he captured somewhat surprisingly at the expense of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The popular American begins his quest for an Emirates double today when he kicks off the inaugural Capitala World Championship at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi this afternoon.
At just before 3pm he will take to the court alongside his first-round opponent, Nikolay Davydenko. This best-of-three-sets match will be followed by the day's other match, Britain's Andy Murray against Roddick's fellow American, James Blake. Tomorrow, the winner between Roddick and Russian Davydenko will meet Spain's Wimbledon champion Nadal while Murray or Blake will face Switzerland's Federer. The final will be at 5pm on Saturday.
Roddick, 26, claims to be in peak physical condition and ready for the challenge. "I am really looking forward to this event as this will be my first competitive tennis of the new year," he said. "I have never trained so hard and I am in the best shape of my professional career. There is a strong field and I'm looking forward to making a great start." He will take heart from his performances at the Dubai Tennis Centre 10 months ago when he rose magnificently to the occasion and overcame Nadal on the way to winning the 25th of his 26 career titles.
"Beating Nadal and winning the tournament was awesome," he reflected. "I felt like I started to hit the ball really well. I feel I played great tennis in Dubai so I'm looking forward to coming back to the Middle East and doing the same." The strong-serving Roddick believes he can add another grand slam title to the 2003 US Open title he captured on home territory. Where will that be? "Anywhere but the French Open," he replied, mindful that his game is not suited to the red clay of Roland Garros.
Does that mean he is a contender for the forthcoming Australian Open? "Whoever will beat me will have to play well," he warned. "I am feeling good and have done well with two semis and a quarter final." Similarly, he is not giving up on regaining world No 1 status in what promises to be a highly competitive year for those in the top 10. "I don't think I'd be still playing if I didn't think I could be No 1 again," he added.
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