x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Federer and Nadal return to Abu Dhabi

The top two men's tennis players spearhead the second Capitala World Championship in Abu Dhabi this December.

The Spaniard Rafael Nadal will be one of six players taking part in the second Capitala tournament in Abu Dhabi in December.
The Spaniard Rafael Nadal will be one of six players taking part in the second Capitala tournament in Abu Dhabi in December.

ABU DHABI // Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the world's top two tennis players, head a talented cast list for the second staging of the Capitala World Championship exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi over the New Year. They are accompanied in the three-day event which starts on December 31 by the Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Russia's Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, of Spain, and Sweden's Robin Soderling.

Andy Murray, who won the inaugural event last January by beating Federer in the semi- finals and Nadal in a thrilling final, has declined the chance to defend the title. Americans Andy Roddick and James Blake are also missing from the original line-up. The pre-season tournament offers a winner-takes-all prize of US$250,000 (Dh917,000) with the organisers insisting that the other five competitors will leave empty handed.

Federer, who has a home in Dubai but had not visited Abu Dhabi until competing in the unofficial non-Tour sanctioned event nine months ago, is relishing the opportunity to start a new campaign in the UAE. "I am very much looking forward to coming back," said the Swiss player, who is holder of an all-time record of 15 grand slam titles. "Last year's tournament was absolutely superb. The line-up this year is very strong again and I'm looking forward to playing in front of the Abu Dhabi crowds who really do get behind the players. Abu Dhabi is a wonderful city and I think what it is doing to promote the game of tennis across the region is fantastic."

Federer, who played only one match last January, losing in the semi-finals to Andy Murray, made representations to the tournament organisers that it would be advisable to have a third place consolation match in subsequent years. That suggestion, which was endorsed by Nadal, has been taken on board by Flash Entertainment, whose managing director John Lickrish announced at yesterday's tournament launch that there would be an extra match on the final afternoon.

Lickrish also declared that the exhibition is here to stay. "It took so much effort to get this tournament going. We have no desire to stop now. We were smiling from ear to ear last year and there is no reason why the forthcoming event cannot be even more successful," he said. Mohammed Al Mahmood, secretary general of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, expressed his delight at being one of the supporters of the tournament.

"After bringing Formula One and the Club World Cup here, this event offers further proof of Abu Dhabi's position as one of the Middle East's leading sporting destinations," he said. The tournament launch also signalled the start of tickets being sold for the three-day event. Admission prices to the 5,000-seat Zayed Stadium range from Dh65 to Dh330 with three-day packages costing only Dh300 for the upper tier of the arena and Dh620 for the lower tier.

wjohnson@thenational.ae