x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mubadala Tennis Championship perfect just the way it is

The Abu Dhabi event will stay unofficial and therefore stress-free for players, say the organisers.

Rafael Nadal, who won the Mubadala championship last year, relishes the Abu Dhabi challenge.
Rafael Nadal, who won the Mubadala championship last year, relishes the Abu Dhabi challenge.

Tennis fans in the country should be thanking their lucky stars.

For the fourth year running, they will be able to feast on matches usually reserved for the final stages of a grand slam.

Novak Djokovic will be here to bring down the curtains on a record-breaking year. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be in attendance as well, hoping to put a dent in the Serbian's confidence ahead of the new season.

David Ferrer, the world No 5, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No 9, will be returning for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, while Gael Monfils, the world No 10, will be making his first appearance in Abu Dhabi.

Few events outside the grand slams and ATP Masters events can boast of such a star-studded line-up, yet organisers inevitably face questions over the likelihood of hosting an ATP Tour event.

Does the event really need an official stamp? Greg Sproule, the managing director of tournament organisers IMG Middle East, does concede it is an ongoing discussion, but like he said last year, the tournament, in its current format, serves the purpose for Abu Dhabi.

"Frankly the timing of the event and the things that we built around it make it perfect just the way it is," Sproule had said.

"There are no other events that take place in the world of tennis during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. So, we really have the global TV audiences focused on this event. The timing is really great from a tennis perspective, from the television point of view.

"In this special format that we have, we have an inordinate amount of access to the players to be a part of these community initiatives, and to be engaging with our sponsors and their VIP guests so extensively. So, we have really tailor-made the programme to exactly what Abu Dhabi needs. It works very well."

The players also seem to enjoy the format and the community work. Last year, Federer and Nadal played sublime tennis in the final without having to bother about championship points.

The stress-free environment is one of the major incentives for them to keep coming back. The strength of the field also means players also get an opportunity to test themselves against the other top guns, as Nadal pointed out: "It's exactly the preparation I need ahead of the Australian Open."

For Federer, "the opportunity to work with junior players makes it personally rewarding to play here as part of this celebration of tennis".

A celebration of tennis it is - a tournament without the mismatches of early rounds. And this year, scheduled from December 29-31, it should put tennis fans in the right mood for the New Year celebrations.

arizvi@thenational.ae


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