Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray may be missing from the lineup of the upcoming Mubadala World Tennis Championship but Abu Dhabi tennis fans can still look forward to the mouthwatering prospect of a Stan Wawrinka-Rafael Nadal final on January 2, 2016 at Zayed Sports City.
The draw of the eighth edition of the MWTC was revealed Saturday in a public ceremony at Yas Mall in the presence of 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who as an ambassador for the tournament, spent hours hitting balls with youngsters on purpose-built courts there.
Abu Dhabi debutants, the huge-hitting pair of Milos Raonic and Kevin Anderson will face off on day one on December 31, followed by a clash between world No7 David Ferrer and No10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The winner of the Raonic-Anderson showdown will take on world No5 Wawrinka on semi-finals day while Nadal faces the victor from the Ferrer-Tsonga encounter.
The final takes place on the third day along with a third-place playoff. Should Wawrinka and Nadal get through their semi-finals, the duo could meet in a rematch of the 2014 Australian Open final.
Cash, who was conducting the draw with the help of young tennis fans at the mall, says he’s very much looking forward to the Raonic and Anderson clash, with both amongst the biggest servers of the game.
“John McEnroe said Raonic is the greatest server he’s ever seen in his life and I think he’s just about right too,” said the 50-year-old Aussie.
“Raonic’s serve is phenomenal. And you’ve got Kevin, who is one of the success stories of the men’s circuit. When I first saw him I didn’t think he was going to be much of a player and now he’s in the top-20.
“Massive serve, big forehand, he’s a very good all-round player, keeps getting better every year and in many ways he’s almost replaced Raonic as the new big-hitting guy on the circuit. Raonic has had a bit of an up and down year with injuries so he’ll be very keen to come back and play well.”
Djokovic and Murray, ranked No1 and No2 in the world at the moment, have both competed in the last three consecutive MWTC editions but are notable absentees from the upcoming event.
“It’s always nice to see the world No1 but it’s not to be this year,” said Cash. “But you still have four players in the top 10 and two players just outside the top 10.
“This event has always had amazing draws and players and that’s the case again. Wawrinka is improving every year. To win the French Open the way he did was amazing.
“A guy like Djokovic can’t play everything.”
Greg Sproule, managing director of MWTC organisers IMG Middle East, did not reveal a specific reason for Murray or Djokovic’s absence, but insists this year’s event will provide a fresh new perspective for local tennis fans.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) November 14, 2015
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) November 14, 2015
“I can’t speak for all of the players,” said Sproule regarding the absence of the world’s top two.
“I think tennis is also shifting and there are some of these younger guys that are coming through, Milos and Kevin being two really great examples, that deserve the limelight.
“They’ve had great careers. It’s an opportunity to do some things a little bit differently. If we had the same players every year it would be a little bit boring.
“Some of those players are playing in the UAE, in the region already, and it’s nice to have a different look. All of these guys are phenomenal players. Throughout the year, they’ve pretty much all been within the top 10.”
As well as providing three days of world-class action in the capital, the tournament aims to leave a legacy for tennis and grow the game through two grassroots programmes, including the Mubadala Tennis in Schools (MTiS).
The community initiative gives local students aged 7-10 from across all schools in Abu Dhabi the chance to take their first steps in the sport by introducing them to a series of tennis sessions taking place each week at International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City.
World Number 8, David Ferrer, has been confirmed to take part in the 2015 Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).
The Spaniard, who recently secured his milestone 25th ATP World Tour title at the Malaysian Open, joins Rafael Nadal and Canadian superstar Milos Raonic as confirmed participants this year.
Ferrer’s last run out at the UAE tournament saw him finish runner-up in the 2013 final and he will be hoping to go one better in Abu Dhabi from December 31st 2015 until January 2nd 2016 at the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi.
It will be Ferrer’s fifth year at the Abu Dhabi tournament, where he also finished as the losing finalist in 2011.
“It is always such a pleasure to come and play this tournament, there is always a lot of excitement in the crowd and the setup in Abu Dhabi is world class,” said Ferrer.
“I am excited to get the season underway. The players are always very strong so I know exactly what I can expect this year: tough, fast and exciting tennis.
— MWTC (@MubadalaTennis) October 4, 2015
“I know Rafa and Milos will set the standards very high and it’s certainly looking like one of the most competitive tournaments yet. In front of the packed stadium in Abu Dhabi with an excited atmosphere, it’s going to be great for the fans and the players.”
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship is entering its eighth year with more star names expected to join three of the world’s top ten players in announcing their intentions to play.
For those fans who do not want to miss out on the action, tickets are available for the Mubadala World Tennis www.ticketmaster.ae (86 823) or +971 4 3662289 for International calls.
Two withdrawals less than two weeks before the tournament and a player pulling out the day of the final, it’s fair to say the Mubadala World Tennis Championship organisers had a lot to deal with during the event’s seventh edition.
But Greg Sproule, the managing director of IMG Middle East, organisers of the MWTC, insists the tournament was not compromised by the late withdrawal of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils or the fever that struck Novak Djokovic, which prevented him from contesting the final against Andy Murray on Saturday.
“I still think it’s been one of the most successful tournaments,” Sproule said following the conclusion of the MWTC.
“I think the player field that we’ve managed to assemble is phenomenal I’m very proud of that. I think the players have played exceptionally well. They’ve entertained the fans both in the Village, in hospitality and certainly on the court.
“We were very fortunate to have Feliciano (Lopez) and Nico (Almagro) join us. It’s terrible when someone isn’t able to play like Novak. But you move on.”
The tournament has strengthened its community outreach and grassroots initiatives over the years and the Interactive Village last weekend was buzzing with countless tennis fans enjoying the various activities taking place.
“From my perspective, that Mubadala is now carrying the Tennis in Schools programme deeper into April and May I think is really important to be engaging and introducing and celebrating and teaching Emirati kids to be playing tennis more. So it’s not just three months now, it’s the four or five months after the tournament,” said Sproule.
“I think those are significant achievements. There is a maturation and demand that we’re responding to. That’s what Mubadala
as our title partners want us to do and similarly FLASH as owners of the tournament are saying to us.”