x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Novak Djokovic looking forward to debut in Abu Dhabi

World No 1 says players and organisers have held discussions to improve scheduling.

Novak Djokovic speaks in Abu Dhabi as he prepares for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Novak Djokovic speaks in Abu Dhabi as he prepares for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

ABU DHABI // Novak Djokovic wants to create "a new tennis world" where the load on players will be better managed and organised than it has been so far.

Djokovic took over as world No 1 this year, his most successful on the ATP tour. He won three grand slams as well as 10 tour titles.

But a hectic schedule saw him pick up a back injury as the season drew to a close, resulting in a dip in form, most notably at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The issue of scheduling came to a head during the US Open – and the build-up to it – when a number of players withdrew due to injuries.

During the tournament, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray raised concerns about the packed schedule and the top players have since met to discuss ways around the problem.

"Scheduling is an issue and all the players have publicly complained about the schedule," said Djokovic, currently in Abu Dhabi to rest and then prepare for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which starts on December 29.

"We're trying to find the best possible way with the present leadership and we have had lots of meetings and discussions," Djokovic said. "We're all trying to make a new tennis world, better for the players, fans and tournaments."

Djokovic did not say whether he would adjust his schedule for 2012 or play fewer tournaments.

Another complication this year is the Olympic Games in London in the summer. Djokovic is keen to take part in what he called "the most prestigious and historic sporting event". He won a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.

But the Olympic tennis event begins on July 28 next year, less than three weeks after Wimbledon. The US Open begins just more than two weeks after the Olympics.

"Every sportsman in the world is excited to be part of the Olympic Games," he said.

"I had this honour in Beijing, where I won a medal, and it was an unforgettable experience. That's why I'm really looking forward to London. But it is going to mess up our schedules a little bit because everything's going to become very close, and there's not going to be much difference between majors and the Olympics. But it's the same for everybody and you just have to get used to that."

First up, however, will be the Mubadala tournament, in which six of the world's top 10 players, including Nadal and Federer, will be taking part. This will be Djokovic's first appearance at the tournament which marks the start of the season.

"I'm looking forward to it and I am very pleased to be here. It's the start of a new season and probably the strongest field for my debut. I heard from other players who said they've been coming here many years because they feel that this is the strongest competition they can have at the start of the season. You have six of the top players and it feels like a grand slam already."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae