x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Nadal and Djokovic can expect to shine in UAE at next Mubadala World Tennis Championship

With Djokovic and Nadal confirmed, Graham Caygill asks who will play the supporting roles at the next extravaganza of tennis in Abu Dhabi

Novak Djokovic returns a volley against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on December 27, 2013. Sammy Dallal / The National
Novak Djokovic returns a volley against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on December 27, 2013. Sammy Dallal / The National

The star power for the seventh staging of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship has already been cemented with the news that Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be back in Abu Dhabi for the 2015 event.

The two best players in the world, who have claimed 14 of the past 18 majors and have won the past five tournaments at Zayed Sports City, should ensure the event continues to be one of the best attended in the UAE sports calendar.

The interesting thing to watch for now is who will be the four men to join Djokovic and Nadal for the action on January 1-3.

Traditionally, organisers have looked for players from the top 10, but this is proving to be a tumultuous year on the ATP circuit. The big four, who had dominated the rankings for the past five years, has been infiltrated by Stan Wawrinka, while Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov have both made breakthroughs into the top 10 this year.

Andy Murray, a top-four mainstay in recent years, is now down in 10th. Injury and poor form have dropped him to his worst ranking in six years. There is no guarantee, given he has not beaten a top-10 player in more than 12 months, that the Briton is going to bounce back.

Murray was the winner of the inaugural, 2008/09 event, but he lost in the first round in the past two appearances in Abu Dhabi, to Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. While he is still a big name, organisers should look carefully at his form before approaching him to compete.

Wawrinka, the world No 4, competed for the first time in the 2013 event, and it would be a surprise if the Australian Open champion were not invited back.

The one player who would be a coup for the event would be Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has long been thought of as the next big thing in tennis, being labelled “Baby Fed”, due to his similarities to Roger Federer.

This year, Dimitrov, 23, has made his breakthrough. His run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon was full of great tennis, and the way he demolished defending champion Murray in the quarter-finals was particularly impressive.

The talent has been clear to see for some time, but now it is being turned into results, too, and his star is clearly on the rise. He would be a major addition to the tournament as a star of the future to go with the current greats on show.

Without knowing the availability and schedule of the players, and whether they would accept an invitation if they were asked, a strong six for the tournament now, in this writer’s mind, would be Djokovic, Nadal, Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Raonic and Dimitrov.

This is presuming that Federer, who has not played the past two Mubadala tournaments, will not be available again.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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