One of the world's finest tennis players says he leapt at the chance to play in Abu Dhabi's first international tennis tournament.
Money not a draw for Murray
LONDON // One of the world's finest tennis players said yesterday he had leapt at the chance to play in Abu Dhabi's first international tennis tournament. But Andy Murray, the young Briton ranked fourth in the world, said his enthusiasm for the event had little to do with the US$250,000 (Dh918,000) first prize. The competition, to run from January 1-3 at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, would pit six of the world's very best players against each other. It was this opportunity to face such stiff opposition early in the year that had made the event irresistible, the 21-year-old Scot said. Speaking to The National in London, Murray said: "When I was offered the chance to play in the Abu Dhabi tournament, I leapt at it. "People will say it's all about the money but it's not. I could have played in an ATP tournament but if I had, it might have meant I played only one match and got knocked out. There are no guarantees in tennis that you are going to get a good run in a tournament. "But this way, in the first tournament of the new season, I know I will be playing against the best players in the world. It is an extraordinary opportunity and an ideal way to prepare for the Australian Open later in the month - an ideal way, too, to show up your strengths and weaknesses after the winter break." Murray will compete against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and James Blake - respectively ranked 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th and 10th in the world - when he comes to Zayed Sports City for the Capitala World Tennis Championship, to be played on a similar plexicushion surface to the one in Australia. Murray was looking forward to a holiday after playing tennis around the world for more than 10 months. It had been a great year. Not only had his tournament wins seen him climb the world rankings and break in to the top five for the first time, but he had also beaten Federer three times and, in one of the finest matches of the season, defeated Nadal to reach the final of the US Open. Only last Sunday he flew back from China after losing to Davydenko in the semi-finals of the Masters Cup in Shanghai, the tournament with the world's richest prize money. "Yes, I feel ready for a break now. It's been an awesome year for me," he said. "Now I have to build on it for next year. "After a short holiday in Florida, I will get back into practice in Miami, preparing for the heat in the Gulf. I have played in Doha and Dubai before, of course, so I know what to expect in terms of the heat. "But the stadium in Abu Dhabi, the place itself and its people will all be new to me. It's going to be exciting and the tennis should be great, too. My only regret is that it means I shall miss the Hogmanay [New Year] celebrations in Scotland." Murray would be returning to Scotland from Florida to spend Christmas with his family. Because of his hectic schedule, it would be the first time he has been back to the family home for exactly a year. Murray has homes in London and Florida, though his schedule does not allow him to spend much time in either. "It will be nice to have a break but it is not long before you want to get back to competitions," he said. "The Gulf is an ideal place to start, mainly because of the weather. It's warm and it does not rain much. "Roger Federer has a home in Dubai, of course, and he spends quite a bit of time there. He seems to love the place. The one thing he finds difficult is to find a decent level of players to practise with. "They have started flying out junior champions from Europe to play with him. It's a great opportunity for them, of course, and it gives him the sort of opposition he can't easily find locally." Murray had no plans of setting up a home in the UAE, even though Federer extols its virtues not only as a place to live, but as a geographically central location for flying to many tournaments around the world. "I'm happy with where I am," said Murray. "But you never say never." firstname.lastname@example.org