Dominic Thiem has confirmed that Spaniard Galo Blanco will be travelling with him in 2018, sharing coaching duties with Gunter Bresnik.
Blanco, who ended his four-year partnership with Russian NextGen star Karen Khachanov last month, also previously worked with Milos Raonic.
Thiem, the current world No. 5, says he spent his preseason in Tenerife accompanied by Blanco, and they were on the practice courts together here in Abu Dhabi.
“He was already with me in Tenerife, and the tournaments where Gunter is not going, he’s going with me,” Thiem said on Saturday, after defeating Pablo Carreno Busta in straights in an exhibition match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
“Or basically he’s at every tournament until the clay-court season. Some he’s sharing with Gunter, the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. He’s a really, really good coach and I’m happy that I’m travelling with him as well.”
World No. 7 Jelena Ostapenko is "excited" to face Serena Williams for the first time, the Roland Garros champion told reporters ahead of her exhibition match with the American superstar, taking place in Abu Dhabi on Saturday (17:00 local time).
The Latvian youngster, who pulled off one of the biggest surprises of 2017 when she upset Simona Halep to win the French Open last June, has long admired Williams and the pair have never faced each other on tour.
Williams, 36, is set to make her first appearance in almost a year. The 23-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played a match since winning the Australian Open last January, and had her first child, Alexis Olympia, in September.
"I’m really honoured to play Serena in her first match after her comeback and I think it’s such a great opportunity," Ostapenko said at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) on Friday.
"She was my idol when I was growing up and I really liked the style she was playing and I think she’s very big for women’s tennis.
The big-serving South African edged to victory in two tight sets, 7-6 (6), 6-4, to book his place in Saturday’s showpiece at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
Bautista Agut had a free pass through to the final following Novak Djokovic’s injury withdrawal, but faced three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray in a one-set exhibition contest in Friday’s evening match.
The Spaniard took full advantage of a rusty Murray, winning 6-2, with the Scot still on his way back to full fitness following a troublesome right hip problem.
For 2017 US Open finalist Anderson, the prospect of facing Bautista Agut is an interesting one, given that the only time the two players previously met was in 2013, with the latter winning their first-round clash in Valencia 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
“We haven’t played each other in quite a few years so it will be interesting to step on the court against him – a lot has changed since that match a few years ago,” the 6ft 6in star told Sport360°.
“I think we’re both excited to be playing the finals here and Abu Dhabi’s a great spot in which to start the year. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
And, on the evidence of Friday evening, Anderson heads into the finale as favourite given the way he dismissed world No.5 Thiem, a man ranked nine spots higher than him.
“It was a serve-dominated match. Dom’s got a great serve — he can hit it really firm and hard,” added Anderson, who had won all his previous six competitive meetings with the Austrian.
“Midway through both the first and second sets I really felt like I found some good rhythm on his serve – I’m really pleased with that. It was good to get the early break and I served really well throughout the match.
“There wasn’t really a whole lot in it, especially in that first-set tiebreak, we were both hitting some really good serves. He hit a double in the end and that determined the first set, and then I got ahead in the second.”
Following his exhibition win against Murray, Bautista Agut weighed up the prospect of facing the in-form 31-year-old.
He said: “I’m happy with how I played the set against Andy, and on Thursday too (win over Andrey Rublev).
“I’m feeling great on the court. I feel as though I’m playing good tennis and I’m happy to be in the final in Abu Dhabi for the first time. I hope I can play well against Kevin.”