Organisers of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship have pulled off another spectacular coup with the news world No2 Rafael Nadal will return to Abu Dhabi for this year's event.
The announcement means the world's top three – Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Andy Murray – will ALL be in the UAE capital from December 26-28 for the sixth staging of the traditional season curtain raiser.
And with three names still to be announced, organisers are staying true to their word of producing the best line-up in the tournament's history.
Nadal 26, had been due to make his long-awaited comeback from a seven-month injury lay-off in last year's event but was forced to pull out on the eve of the tournament due to a stomach virus.
But after enjoying a stunning return to the tour in 2013 which has seen him claim 10 tournament wins including the French and US Opens, Nadal now heads to Abu Dhabi as the form man and very much the headline act.
“After the disappointment of last year I promised my fans in the UAE I would return, so I’m very happy it’s happening so soon and I’m back in the player line-up," said Nadal, a two-time winner of the event.
"This will be my fifth time playing in Abu Dhabi and I’m looking forward to getting back on court there later this year. It’s a great opportunity to test myself, especially just before the start of the new season.
“I’m sure I’ll face some tough competition but I’m hoping to take the title for a third time and play some great tennis for the Abu Dhabi fans in the process.
"The atmosphere is always fantastic and will be counting on the crowds’ support to help me win again this year!”
Confirmation of Nadal's participation follows the earlier announcements that world No1 Djokovic, seeking a third successive win in Abu Dhabi, and world No3 Murray, the tournament's inaugural winner, have also signed up.
Focus now turns to the three remaining slots still available as organisers look to complete their star-studded lineup.
Rising Polish star Jerzy Janowicz, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon earlier this year, has been mooted as one possible candidate and while he recently told Sport360° he had received no approach, he would be "open" to an invitation.
For fans who don’t want to miss out on seeing the world’s top three players in action at the Zayed Sports City Tennis Complex, tickets are on sale from www.ticketmaster.ae and 800 TM UAE (86 823)with prices starting from AED 50.