x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Quartet set for Doha challenge

The first official ATP tour event in Doha starts today which features four of the six stars from the recent Capitala World Championship.

DOHA // Four of the six players who lit up the Abu Dhabi sporting scene during the Capitala World Championship are the top seeds in the first official tournament of the year - the Qatar ExxonMobil Open which begins in Doha today. Rafael Nadal, who has tended to go to Chennai for his opening engagement in recent years, and Roger Federer, who has chosen not to play in the first week of the season for the last two years, have returned as the top two seeds.

Andy Murray, the defending champion here, is seeded to meet Federer in the semi-finals, while the American Andy Roddick is scheduled to meet Nadal in the last four. Federer, who won on his two previous visits to Doha, is glad to be competing again in the Middle East. "I wanted to go back sooner but it didn't work out," he said. "I have had a lot of success in this part of the world and I enjoy playing in the region."

Murray will not lack confidence about making a successful defence of his title but pointed out: "In Qatar last year I did very well and won the tournament, but lost in the first round of the Australian Open. "I would exchange my results this year and by happy to lose in the first round in Doha if it meant going all the way in the Australian Open." An early departure from Doha appears unlikely. Murray has a decent draw in the 32-man event, opening with a match against Albert Montanes of Spain with the winner facing either Germany's Philipp Petzschner or Jeremy Chardy, of France.

Nadal's first "competitive" match since sustaining the knee injury in November and missing the conclusion of last season is against the Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, known as the "magician" for his deft touches on the court. wjohnson@thenational.ae