Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Andrey Rublev and Emma Raducanu lead a strong field at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships - UBITENNIS
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Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Andrey Rublev and Emma Raducanu lead a strong field at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships

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Andy Murray completes a star-studded eight-player line-up at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships, which returns this year this year from 16 to 18 December at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City. 

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist won the Mubadala World Tennis Championships twice in the inaugural edition in 2009 and 2015. 

Murray joins a field that features three top 10 players Andrey Rublev (world number 5), five-time Mubadala tournament winner Rafael Nadal (world number 6) and Casper Ruud (world number 8). The other stars expected to play at the Mubadala tournament are Denis Shapovalov and 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem.  

Ruud, who won five ATP Tour titles in a very successful 2021 season, will face 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist Denis Shapovalov in the opening match on 16 December. Thiem will make his come-back from injury in the second match against Murray. 

The opening day will be closed by a women’s match between 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu and Olympic singles gold medallist Belinda Bencic. Raducanu beat Bencic in the quarter final at this year’s Open en route to winning her first Grand Slam title at the age of 18. 

Raducanu made history at the US Open, becoming the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virgina Wade at Wimbledon 1977, and the first qualifier to win a Major singles title at the age of 18. The British teenager did not drop a set in all ten matches she player in New York just three months after her WTA Tour level main draw debut in Nottingham. 

Raducanu, who was ranked world number 150 when she won the US Open, is the lowest-ranked player to win the US Open title since an unranked Kim Cljisters won the first Major title of her come-back at the 2009 US Open. After the Flashing Meadows triumph Raducanu rose to world number 23 in the WTA Ranking. 

“I have many happy memories of Abu Dhabi and I am looking forward to returning. With Raducanu also playing on day one, we will be flying the flag for British tennis and looking to put on a strong display”, said Andy Murray. 

Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev will face the winners of the Day 1 men’s matches in the semifinal on Day 2. Rublev, who won the Rotterdam title this year, will face the winner of the match between Ruud and Shapovalov. Nadal will take on either Murray or Thiem. 

Nadal is training after recovering from the injury, which sidelined him during the second half of the 2021 season. Nadal has not played since last August, when he lost to Lloyd Harris in the second round of the ATP 500 in Washington. The Spanish star will start the 2022 season at the ATP 250 in Melbourne on 3 January. He will play in an ATP 250 tournament for the first time since 2017 in Brisbane, where he beat Alexander Dolgopolov and Misha Zverev before losing to Milos Raonic in the quarter finals. Nadal has not won an ATP 250 title since Stuttgart 2015. 

Nadal has recently added his close friend Marc Lopez as the third coach in his training group which includes Carlos Moya and Francisco Roig. Nadal and Marc Lopez won the Olympic gold medal in the doubles tournament. Lopez is a close friend of Nadal and has practised with the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the past. Marc Lopez has been part of Feliciano Lopez’s team in the past and served as Feliciano’s coach after his split with Pepo Clavet. 

“Abu Dhabi is a special place for me, a place where I have been many times and where I started my season many times. Ever since I first came to Abu Dhabi, I have had a great response from the fans and I am sure the atmosphere is going to be special as always. I want to return to the court soon, but I want to do it when I am ready. My preparation is going on better than before. Otherwise I would not have chosen to play in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi will be an important test. I have no expectations”, said Nadal. 

Rublev made his Abu Dhabi debut in 2017. Last year he won six ATP tournaments in the past two seasons in Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna (2020) and Rotterdam (2021). 

“It’s always exciting to be heading back to Abu Dhabi and playing in front of the fans there. They really know tennis and make a real difference. With the event at full capacity it’s going to be a great way to begin a busy 2022 season”, said Rublev. 

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Alycia Parks Stuns Garcia To Win First Tour Title In Lyon

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Image via WTA Twitter

Rising star Alycia Parks is on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50 for the first time after stunning world No.4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets to win the Lyon Open. 

 

22-year-old Parks, who contested just three WTA main draws last year, battled to a 7-6(7), 7-5, win over Garcia who is the first top-five player she has beaten on the Tour. Throughout the final, the American didn’t drop serve after saving all four break points she faced. In total, she produced 28 winners with 15 of those being aces. It is only the second time she has beaten a top 10 player on the Tour after Maria Sakkari at the Ostrava Open last year. 

“I want to thank you for all coming out, this title means a lot to me,” Parks said afterwards. “France has a special part in my heart right now. I want to congratulate Garcia, you had an amazing week, keep playing how you’re playing.”

The victory caps off what has been a breakthrough week for Parks who dropped two sets in five matches played which was in her opening two rounds. Earlier in the tournament, she also defeated seventh seed Danka Kovinic and fourth seed Petra Martic to become only the third unseeded player to win a WTA event so far this year.  

Parks was ranked 199th in the world 12 months ago but has climbed up the rankings and is now set to break into the world’s top 70 for the first time on Monday. Towards the end of last year, she won back-to-back WTA 125 tournaments and has now won 16 out of her last 17 matches played. Her only loss was to Czech teenager Sara Bejlek in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

As for Garcia, Sunday’s clash was the first time she had contested a WTA final in her home city of Lyon. Coming into her clash with Parks, she had won 10 out of her last 11 finals played on the Tour. It is the 40th time in her career she has lost to an American player in a WTA main draw.

Congrats on an amazing week and the (past) couple of months have been unbelievable (for you),” said Garcia. “It’s your first WTA title today and it was well deserved. You played amazing and if you keep playing like this you are for sure going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks, who graduated from High School in 2019, is coached on the Tour by her father Michael who has been her main mentor since childhood. 

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Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Garbine Muguruza Switches Focus From Ranking Points To Enjoyment In Hunt For Form

Ranked outside the WTA top 80 for the first time since 2013, Muguruza is hoping to stage a comeback with the help of a new perspective.

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Garbine Muguruza (ESP) waves to the crowd after defeating Fiona Ferro (FRA) on No.2 Court in the first round of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 1 Monday 28/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

To say that last year was tough for Gabine Muguruza is a bit of an understatement. 

 

The Spaniard started 2022 among the best players in the world and was ranked No.3 as a result of her triumph at the WTA Finals just a couple of months earlier. However, the year didn’t go as planned for two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza who won just 12 matches. In total, she played in 17 tournaments but only managed to score back-to-back victories in two of them. In October she plummeted down the rankings from 13th to 57th. 

Muguruza’s problems have continued into this season. She is yet to win a match and is now down to 82nd in the world which is her lowest position in almost a decade. January 2013 was the last time the 29-year-old was ranked outside the top 100. 

“I’ve had so many moments in my career where I’ve been so high, and other moments when I’ve not been so high. It’s a process of trying to get back up there,” the former world No.1 told The National. “Now I’m focusing on training hard and being humble.
“You have to know that maybe you haven’t had the success recently as you had in other years, but that’s fine because things can change very quickly.
“With tennis, one week it can go wrong, then next week it can go well, then everything changes again. I think experience helps me to stay calm in the not-so-good moments when I haven’t been playing as well or results haven’t followed.”

It is a frustrating situation for somebody of Muguruza’s ability to be in. At the 2021 WTA Finals, she scored four wins over top-10 players but since then hasn’t beaten anybody ranked higher than No.31 in the world. 

Eager to get back to the top of the sport, she has decided to change her outlook on how she approaches the Tour. Muguruza, who is coached by Conchita Martinez, now says her main priority is enjoying her tennis. If this is achieved, she is confident the results will follow in due course. 

“I feel that this year it’s more about keeping it calm and more simple,” she said. “Last year I put myself under a lot of pressure, telling myself to keep going to stay at the top all the time. That definitely didn’t help me, and it was a bit of a struggle.
“This year, yes ranking is important – I’ve been at every possible ranking – but that is not my priority anymore. Now it’s about enjoying my time on court and taking the trophies back home, then we’ll see what the ranking is.”

Muguruza’s next test will be at the Abu Dhabi Open, which will get underway on Monday. She has been drawn to play Karolina Pliskova in the first round who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Then if she wins, she faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

“I played some good tennis [in Australia]. A bit disappointed about the quarter-final but overall my level is there. Of course, there are some things to improve to become more solid but overall the situation is quite good,” Pliskova said ahead of the first round clash. 

12 months ago Muguruza reached the third round in Abu Dhabi before losing to Maria Sakkari. 

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