In recent years Abu Dubai has been the premier location for some of the world’s best players to finalize their preparations for the new season.
The World Tennis Championships takes place at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Centre, which was built in 2004. This year’s exhibition event feature both men’s and women’s matches between December 27th – 29th. There will be one women’s match occurring on the first day, as well as a men’s tournament featuring six players.
Ahead of the competition, here is everything you need to know about the exhibition.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) December 14, 2018
On Thursday there will be a sibling rivalry when Serena and Venus Williams lock horns. The two have 30 grand slam singles titles between them both with Serena winning 23 of those. Together they have also won 14 grand slam titles in doubles. In their head-to-head on the WTA Tour, Serena leads 16-12.
“This is going to be thrilling,” Serena said during an interview with The National.
“I love that Venus and I have had the ultimate rivalry. I have never played anyone I respect more and am wary of more than her. We, year after year and now I can say decade after decade, bring out the best in each other.
“It is never easy playing your best friend but she knows my game inside out, and has been so successful over me so many times. She is my role model and sister and best friend all rolled up into one. I could not be more fortunate to have her as my sister.”
It is only the second year a women’s match has taken place at the Championship and it will be the first time Venus has taken part. 12 months ago Serena, who was on the comeback from giving birth, bowed out in three sets to Jelena Ostapenko.
“Serena played here last year, it was an exciting time for her and her first competitive match of the season.” Venus told reporters in November.
“She went on to have a great year, so I hope I can do the same and have a great year this year.
“I am feeling good about my tennis and I am feeling strong.”
The clash between the Williams sisters will take place on the 27th at approximately 20:00 local time (GMT+4).
👇🏻💪🏻 entrenamiento, practice! pic.twitter.com/z0nQNQvWnv
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) December 10, 2018
As for the players from the ATP Tour, a mini tournament has been held for them annually since January 2009 when Andy Murray defeated Rafael Nadal in the final. This year’s draw will be the 11th edition of the event with four top 10 players taking part.
Nadal will be looking for a confidence boost ahead of 2019. The Spaniard hasn’t played since the US Open due to a series of injury issues. He has been troubled by knee and abdominal problems and has also undergone minor surgery on his ankle. The Spaniard has experienced numerous success at Abu Dhabi in recent years, winning the Championships a record four times.
“(Mubadala) has always been an important tournament for me since it is the best way to prepare the start of the season in Australia.” Nadal told Gulf News.
Granted a bye in the opening round, Nadal will play either Kevin Anderson or Hyeon Chung in the semi-finals. Anderson is the defending champion after scoring wins over Dominic Thiem and Roberto Bautista Agut last year. Since then, the South African has won two ATP titles and reached the final of the Wimbledon Championships.
“The biggest thing was to recover and get the body healthy and everything feels really good,” Anderson told reporters about his off-season on Wednesday. “There’s always a few things you’re working on, on the court, movement, returns and some stuff at the net but all in all things are feeling really good and I’m really excited to get on the court this week.”
— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) December 26, 2018
22-year-old Chung will be hoping to spoil Anderson’s dream. Chung peaked at a ranking high of 19th back in April, but his campaign on the tour has also been blighted by injury issues.
“I have played Kevin a few times so I know how to play against him and I know he is one of the great players in the world. I will have to play my best.” Chung said about the upcoming match.
In the other section, Novak Djokovic is looking to continue his recent surge in form. The world No.1 has established himself as the best player in men’s tennis over the past six months after winning two grand slam and two Masters 1000 trophies. He currently leads the world rankings by more than 1500 points.
Despite Djokovic’s calibre, his first match in the tournament might not be so easy. Awaiting him will be either Dominic Thiem or Karen Khachanov, who will lock horns in the second match of the draw. Thiem has defeated the Serbian in their two most recent clashes between 2017-2018, but Djokovic was not playing his best tennis on both of those occasions. Meanwhile, Khachanov stunned the world No.1 two months ago in the final of the Paris Masters.
“This is a new season,” said Khachanov. “It will start from zero for everybody. You have to again prove that you are good and you have to get these results. Of course I am feeling more confident right now. But everything starts from zero.”
Djokovic is a former three-time champion of the event. Going undefeated at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Centre between 2011-2013.
Full order of play
Chung KOR Vs Anderson RSA (16:00)
Thiem AUT Vs Khachanov RUS (18:00)
Williams, Serena Vs Williams, Venus (20:00)
Fifth place match – TBD (15:00)
Nadal ESP Vs Chung KOR or Anderson RSA (17:00)
Novak Djokovic SRB Vs Thiem AUT or Khachanov RUS (19:00)
Third match play-off (17:00)
NOTE: Times are estimated and in accordance to the local time zone (GMT +4).
EXCLUSIVE Interview With US Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish: “If Davis Cup Fails, We All Fail”
Mardy Fish takes the reins of the US Davis Cup team and feels very strongly about the new format for the competition: “If you love Davis Cup you have to support it, even with this format”
After Jim Courier’s resignation from the role of US Davis Cup Captain last September after the defeat in the 2018 semifinal against Croatia, the USTA decided to take their time and make some changes to the duties required by the role. Following Courier’s suggestion that “the new captain should be someone closer in age to the players”, the United States Tennis Association decided to trust former world no.7 Mardy Fish with this important responsibility, also making him a key figure in the Player Development Program, expanding the role of captain into a year-round presence at tournaments around the world to provide a bigger support to players.
While we were covering the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Mardy found the time to talk to Ubitennis over the phone from his house in California and provided some insight into this new adventure for him.
What can you tell us about your first few months in your new role?
It’s been a fun few months, adjusting from the role of peer to the other players to that of captain. I have found a lot of respect towards me from the other players and this is obviously a great thing. I have always been a huge fan of Davis Cup, I have always said yes whenever I had the opportunity to play it, and it’s an honor to be in this role.
You retired a few years ago from professional tennis: how do you feel about getting back on the road now that your life is structured in a different way?
My life at home has been quite established, with my wife and my two kids, but I have been doing a bit of personal traveling for some exhibitions and for golfing. This role will not require a lot of traveling, I will just do what I need to create some camaraderie in the team: I have spent a few days in Indian Wells, from Tuesday to Saturday, I will be a few days in Miami, then I won’t be around much for the European season and I will travel again to tournaments in the summer. I just need the players to know that they have my support and the support of the USTA if it’s needed.
What do you think about the new formula for the Davis Cup?
I think it’s too early to tell right now, we will find out how it goes. On paper the formula sounds awesome, the time was right for a change, although I’m not sure if it was necessary to make it as drastic as this. I know there are some people that feel very strongly against this new formula, but this means that people are passionate about Davis Cup, they really care about it.
The date in the calendar for the Finals is quite tough though. But at the end of the day, if it’s Davis Cup the majority of players will find a way to participate and I’m convinced we will get an excellent field.
As far as the US Team is concerned, I don’t foresee any availability issue from our players, especially the younger ones: they are very excited about playing for the USA, the National Team is in a lot of conversations among our players. I can’s speak for other countries, I know some of them have pledged not to play with the new format, but what we need to remember is that we are all responsible for Davis Cup: if Davis Cup fails, we all fail, we are all together on the same boat. For example, the Australian players are all very passionate about Davis Cup, they love it, and that is fantastic. But if they don’t support it, it’s not going to work.
With the new formula, a team getting to the final will need to play six ties in seven days: how important do you think it will be to have a ‘long bench’?
I think it will be important to bring players who play only singles and other players who play only doubles. I believe that teams that only have one or two players, as it could be for Russia, and relying on them to play both singles and doubles could get into a bit of a situation should they get to the business end of the competition, because their players may get there quite tired. We are lucky in that sense because we can have someone like Jack Sock who could play doubles leaving the singles guys free to worry about the singles.
Tennis politics have recently made the headlines with Chris Kermode not being renewed as the ATP CEO. What is your take on this?
I have spoken to some of the guys who are in the Players’ Council and once again I need to stress that they do what they do because they act with passion. They are passionate about tennis, they act out of love for the game even if their ranking is not high. I know Kermode personally from when he was the Tournament Directors at the Queen’s Tournament and everything was perfect for me; I don’t have direct experience with him at the helm of the ATP, I had already retired when he took the reins of the organization.
A few weeks ago the ITF decided the composition of the Round Robin phase of the Davis Cup Final and the US team will be in the same group as Italy and Canada. Can you tell us about these teams?
Well, Canada has the right mix of experience and youth: Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime are going to be there for a long time, and Milos [Raonic] will be able to give them all the support they need. Similarly, Italy has an established core of players such as Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi that will be supplemented by Marco Cecchinato, whom I know him anyway because he is was my opponent in my last match ever at the US Open.
I am very confident about our chances in this group: we have three top 60 players who are still 21 years old or younger, who are Tiafoe, Fritz and Opelka. Tiafoe has just reached the Quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and that’s not a result that you can improvise, you need to beat good players to get there. They will be the core of our team for the years to come, and they will be helped by more established veterans like John [Isner] or Sam [Querrey].
David Ferrer rallies from one set down to stun Alexander Zverev in Miami
Former world number 3 David Ferrer fought back from one set down to upset 2018 Nitto ATP Finals Alexander Zverev 2-6 7-5 6-3 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
David Ferrer, who reached the final in Miami in 2013, has scored his first win against a top 5 player since 2015, when he beat Kei Nishikori in the Acapulco final.
Ferrer has announced that he will end his glorious career next May at the Madrid Mutua Open. The Spaniard has won 27 ATP titles in his career and reached the quarter final in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
Ferrer lost his last four head-to-head matches against Zverev, who won their previous clash in Acapulco in straight sets a few weeks ago.
Zverev drew the first blood breeaking serve at love in the fourth game after a double fault from Ferrer. The Spaniard broke straight back on his third break point chance in the fifth game. Zverev broke twice in the sixth and eighth games to clinch the first set 6-2.
Ferrer bounced back breaking in the first game of the second set and held on his service games to open up a 4-2 lead. Zverev broke straight back in the eighth game and held serve on the second deuce in the fifth game to come within a game of the win at 6-2 5-4, but Ferrer bounced back by winning three consecutive games with two breaks of serve to win the second set 7-5 sending the match to the third set.
Ferrer saved a break point chance in the fourth game before earning a crucial break at love in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Ferrer held his next two service games and sealed the win with a double break at 30.
“It means a lot. It’s a special day because it’s the last year of professional tennis for me. Winning these types against a top 10 player like Sasha is a gift. I am very happy and I am trying to enjoy every point and every moment”, said Ferrer.
Ferrer will face Frances Tiafoe in the third round in their first head-to-head match. The 22-year-old player battled past Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) after two hours and 4 minutes. Kecmanovic went up a double break to open up a 4-1 lead, but Tiafoe won four consecutive games with two breaks in a row to take a 5-4 lead. Kecmanovic saved two break points to hold his serve in the 10th game. Tiafoe came back from 2-4 to win the tie-break 8-6. Tiafoe got an early break at the start of the second set to take a 1-0 lead. Kecmanovic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Kecmanovic saved five break points in the seventh and ninth games to hold his service games. Tiafoe took the 7-5 edge to take the second tie-break despite cramps in his left leg.
Roger Federer digs deep to edge Radu Albot in Miami
Three-time Miami Open champion Roger Federer had to dig deep to defeat Moldova’s Radu Albot 4-6 7-5 6-3 after 2 hours and 10 minutes in a hard-fought second round match at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Radu Albot, who won his maiden ATP title in Delray Beach last February and arrived in Miami with a career high of world number 46, came very close to pull off the upset, but Federer fought hard to achieve his first come-back from a set down since Miami 2012.
Albot saved six of the eight break points he faced, including four in his first service game. Federer hit 14 aces and fended off three of the four break points he faced.
Albot earned an immediate break in the opening game, when Federer netted a forehand. Albot saved four break points in the second game to back up his break and held on his next service games. Albot hit three consecutive winners at 15 in the tenth game to clinch the first set 6-4 after 35 minutes.
Both players held their serve in the first six games of the second set. Federer saved a break point in the seventh game and earned a break point chance in the eighth game, but Albot fended it off. As the second set looked to be nearing a tie-break Federer finally clinched his first break in the 12th game with a backhand volley winner to close out the second set 7-5.
In the third set Albot earned a break point at 3-3 when Federer made a double fault. The 20-time Grand Slam champion saved it with three consecutive service winners. The Swiss legend earned his only break of the third set, when Albot sent a forehand long. Federer held serve at 15 with a service winner to secure his spot in the third round. Federer avoided his second consecutive second round defeat in Miami after losing to Thanasi Kokkinakis last year.
Federer will take on Filip Krajnovic, who beat Stan Wawrinka preventing the second all-Swiss third round match this month.
“I definitely think that Radu played a great match. It was really tough and I struggled early on. I am very relieved and happy to make it through. It was a great atmosphere”, said Federer.
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