ABU DHABI // Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, making his UAE debut, will get the Capitala World Tennis Championship under way against Nikolay Davydenko on December 31 after the pair were pitted together for the curtain-raiser of the annual tournament. Victory over the Russian at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex would see last year's Australian Open finalist set up a semi-final showdown with world No 2 Rafael Nadal, who has been given a first-round bye for the second year running.
In the other half of the draw Stanislas Wawrinka, replacing Fernando Verdasco who pulled out to rest a recurring foot injury, will meet world No 9 Robin Soderling in the opening day's second match, with world No 1 Roger Federer waiting to meet the winner the following afternoon. The third-place play-off and final will take place on January 2. The draw was announced yesterday by organisers Flash Entertainment, who also confirmed the prize purse remains the same as last year's inaugural tournament, where winner Andy Murray walked away with US$250,000 (Dh918,000).
Vickie Gunnarsson of the sports management group IMG said that with the ATP Tour lasting deep into November it was always going to be difficult to secure top names for an event taking place over the New Year holiday, but said, even without last year's winner, the line-up remains strong. "Andy [Murray] was travelling last year and so it made sense for him to play here," she said. "This year he has decided to rest, but he was very happy with last year's tournament and said he wants to come back again.
"Obviously, it is always going to be tough to get the best players, but if you look at the line-up, we have six of the top 21 players; five of the top 10. It's still a great line-up." Tickets for the three-day event are available at www.boxofficeme.com. @Email:email@example.com