Jim Courier and Stefan Edberg were united in their enthusiasm in welcoming the high-quality exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in January.
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DUBAI // Jim Courier and Stefan Edberg, two of tennis' elder statesmen who put on an entertaining show for an appreciative Dubai audience on Saturday evening, were united in their enthusiasm in welcoming Abu Dhabi as a new venue for their sport when the capital stages a high-quality exhibition tournament in January.
Courier, the American who rose to the top of the world rankings in the process of winning two Australian Opens and two French Opens, envied the current crop of leading players who will test their skills in the UAE from Jan 1-3. "An exhibition, as attractive as that one is, provides a great way for the top players to get some intense top flight matches before they get going in the new season," said Courier, an impressive winner of the Legends Rock Dubai tournament after his 6-3, 6-4 conquest of Edberg.
"There is nothing better in my opinion for a player at the beginning of the year than to get in some matches where you are playing against some great competition when the stress levels are not that high. It should be perfect for the players' schedule and it will be ideal preparation for the Australian Open." Courier, still an impressive baseline mover at 38, based those comments on two visits to Dubai in 1996 and 1997 for the popular ATP Tour event at the Aviation Club and two return visit as a "veteran" on the Legends circuit.
"I have always had a great time in Dubai. And I am sure Abu Dhabi will be just as enjoyable for those who play there." Those players are scheduled to be Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, who ended 2008 as the world's top five, and James Blake, the flamboyant American who is ranked 10th. Edberg, 42, who also rose to world No 1 status during a splendid career which brought six grand slam titles, also welcomed the advent of Abu Dhabi on to the tennis calendar.
"Tennis is a worldwide sport. We have got it going in Russia, China and Latin America. "Abu Dhabi is a different venue for our leading players and that can only be good for the game. "Probably a lot of people will watch this tournament and they will all learn where Abu Dhabi is and what role it is capable of playing in the future of tennis." Edberg, who played in the Dubai Championships once and in neighbouring Doha on four occasions, was delighted with his efforts over the week as he fell fractionally short of the top prize of $54,000 (Dh198,000).
The Swede stepped in at the last minute to replace the injured Goran Ivanisevic and was rewarded with an invitation to return next year for the fifth running of the Legends Rock, which is sponsored by The National. "They made the offer on court so I assume I am safe in accepting it," he said. "I am looking forward to coming back next year." @Email:email@example.com