Novak Djokovic’s first match back following his six-month injury hiatus will be against familiar foe Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Djokovic has not played since Wimbledon, due to an elbow injury, but told Sport360 that he is pain-free and ready to get back to the match court.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has had difficult clashes with Bautista Agut in the past, including two four-setters at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open – both of which Djokovic won.
The Spaniard trails Djokovic 1-6 head-to-head but beat the ex-world No. 1 last year in Shanghai.
“It’s going to be great to have Novak on court again, for everybody, for all of us. I’m happy to play against him again. I played some tough matches against him and I always enjoy playing against Novak,” said Bautista Agut.
On Thursday in the UAE capital, the 20th-ranked Bautista Agut defeated Rublev 7-5, 6-2 to advance to Friday’s semi-finals.
“I played great. I think it was a good first match of the season. I felt great on the court, the surface feels great for my game. It was a good start for me,” said the Spaniard, who had a solid day on the fast surface in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier on centre court, Kevin Anderson defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a rematch of their US Open semi-final from last September.
Anderson takes on world No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who has been in fierce form on the practice courts at Zayed Sports City over the past two days.
The 14th-ranked Anderson enjoys a dominant 6-0 head-to-head record against Thiem, who admitted he “completely” lost his confidence at the end of 2017 but believes he has restored his self-belief ahead of the new season.
“It’s just one of those things. Quite a few times I’ve obviously had good success with him in the past. But they were very close matches,” Anderson said of his strong record against the Austrian.
“Saved match points in one of them. In Washington this year he was up a break twice in the third set and managed to fight my way through there. The record would show that I haven’t lost to him but one or two points it could have been not quite as one-sided as it is. He’s one of the best players in the world, he’s proved himself with that. He had a great year this year, especially in the clay-court season.
“He’s a great competitor, he’s a free swinger, and when he times the ball well, he hits the ball just as hard as anybody, especially on these courts, they are very quick, so that would be great for him. It’s going to be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it.”
14:30 Fifth-place play-off Pablo Carreno Busta v Andrey Rublev
17:00 Semi-final 1 Dominic Thiem v Kevin Anderson
19:00 Semi-final 2 Novak Djokovic v Roberto Bautista Agut
Day one of the 10th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) got off to an exciting start as future stars of the game got the chance to interact and learn from the very best.
The Tennis Village at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City was a hive of activity as kids as young as 10 years old rubbed shoulders with the likes of US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta, world No. 5 Dominic Thiem, Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, upcoming star Andrey Rublev and US Open finalist Kevin Anderson.
The players took time ahead of their matches to share advice and tips with local children, as well as train with them, hoping to inspire the future generation of players.
The MWTC provides a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity for youngsters to practice with their heroes and offers fans unrivalled access to the world’s leading players.
Commenting on his participation at the Mubadala Community Cup (MCC) under 14s clinic, Carreno Busta said: “It’s really fun to play with these kids and I think it is very important for them to play with top players and I hope that they enjoyed the clinic. I sure did.”
British national Amber Razzaq was among the group of kids who took part in the clinic as one of the winners of the MCC. She said: “It was a great experience for me as a tennis player because usually we see these players only on TV and you never dream of seeing them in real life let alone playing with them. So today was actually a great experience for me to learn and improve.”
Fans also enjoyed a Q&A session with Australian legend and MWTC ambassador Pat Cash and Thiem, who along with Rublev, signed autographs for the youngsters.
Visitors to the Tennis Village also enjoyed fun games and other engaging activities to test their tennis skills at the Mubadala’s Interactive Zone.
The 10th edition of the MWTC will run from December 28 to 30.
Fans at this year’s tournament can celebrate watching some of the world’s best players by attending Katy Perry’s New Year’s Eve concert. If you have already purchased a ticket for the MWTC, you can now receive a 20 per cent discount when purchasing a General Admission ticket to Katy Perry’s New Year Eve Concert online through www.ticketmaster.ae.
MWTC General Admission three-day pass holders are now also eligible to receive two tickets to the Katy Perry concert for the price of one.
Former world No. 1 Andy Murray made a surprise appearance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Thursday, where he hit the practice courts in preparation for his long-awaited return to the tour.
Murray hasn't played a match since his Wimbledon quarter-final exit at the hands of Sam Querrey. The three-time Grand Slam champion has been out of action nursing a hip injury and fans flocked to the stands by the practice court at Zayed Sports City to see how well the Brit is moving.
The 30-year-old is scheduled to compete at the Brisbane International, which begins on Sunday.
During a practice session that lasted nearly an hour and a half, Murray hit serves, forehands, backhands, ran down drop shots, and worked on his passing shots -- among other things -- joined on court by his coach Jamie Delgado, his fitness trainer Matt Little and another member of his team.
Murray is likely to stay here in Abu Dhabi for two more days where he'll get the opportunity to practice with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) December 28, 2017