Six of the world’s best tennis players have made their way to Abu Dhabi in order to kick-off the new season at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships from 1st to 3rd January 2015.
Since the inaugural event in 2008, the exhibition tournament has become the start of the new tennis year and with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Feliciano López as well as Nicolas Almagro, it has welcomed again some of the best players of the ATP World Tour.
In a three-day competition in perfect weather conditions, the players are facing each other at the International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City in a single elimination series of matches before the last two men standing go head to head in the final on 3rd January.
Ahead of the first match the “super six” took time out to see the UAE capital’s Central Business District – Al Maryah Island, located at the midpoint between Abu Dhabi’s existing downtown and new business and residential districts, which is comprised of commercial, hotels, retailers as well as leisure facilities.
Andy Murray began his 2015 season on New Year’s Day with a successful opening clash against Feliciano López in Abu Dhabi’s first thrilling encounter winning 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. The Scot secured the tie-break of the first set after sixty minutes 7-1 and was more dominant on the court in the important situations. The 33-year-old Spaniard, whose handsome looks drove Murray’s mother to nickname him “Deliciano”, became more consistent with his attacking style of play in the second set and claimed his only third set against the Brit in their tenth meeting. Murray clinched the deciding break in the ninth game of the final set through a couple of great returns in order to seal victory after two hours and 29 minutes.
“For the first match of the year, it was quite a good effort. I think, I played some great tennis. By the end I was a bit more tired than normal because I was almost two months without playing matches like this one today. Nonetheless I’m happy with my performance. This tournament is a great chance for everybody to challenge the top players in the world. The event here is really impressive. The weather is perfect, people are very kind and the conditions on the court are good,” López, who made his first appearance in Abu Dhabi told afterwards. “Facing Andy is always great. You can see where you are in order to improve your game. Playing two and a half hours against one of the best players in the world, you cannot get a better preparation,” the Spaniard added.
“It was fairly a high quality match today. There were some periods during the game where the level dropped a little bit but we played a lot of good rallies and some of the games were pretty tough. It was a good test for me today and I’m happy that I got two and a half hours of competitive tennis to start the year,” Murray said. “It’s actually a nice surface out there. At the beginning of the match it was quite windy, it can become quite gusty, wind changes directions, which made it a bit tricky but at the end it was fine, a bit cooler and the surface slowed down,” the Brit was happy with the conditions and is looking forward to meet Nadal in the semi-finals tomorrow.
The reigning Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka gained his first victory in his third appearance in Abu Dhabi when he defeated the lowest-ranked player competing in the tournament, Nicolas Almagro, winning 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes. The Spaniard made his first match after he was forced to retire in the first round at Roland Garros in June due to a foot injury.
“It’s a good win today. I’m happy to start the year like that. Of course this is not a Grand Slam or a Masters 1000, it’s an exhibition but it is a good test to see where you are and it is not about the result but about getting to find the rhythm. Here are perfect conditions. You can play and practice the entire day with different players. That’s great,” Wawrinka told afterwards. “For sure it’s nice to get back to Melbourne as the defending champion. It’s a new experience but you start the year from zero. It’s about making points from the beginning of the year. For me it’s the same pressure as last year. I really want to achieve a big result and make it well,” the Swiss said about getting on to Chennai next and then to Australia.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who will both step into action tomorrow spoke to the media earlier the day. “I am trying to get ready for the season. I hope I can play a couple of matches to put me to rhythm. It’s true that this year I’m going to play in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. I will try to play a bit more on clay because it’s easier for my body. Before Australia I’m playing in Doha and then I’ll play Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros,” the world number three from Spain told about his early schedule for this season.
“My number one priority for 2015 is playing here tomorrow afternoon. For Roland Garros is still five month to go but of course it is still the most special tournament for me. Nonetheless we have time to think about that,” Nadal told about his goal claiming his tenth title in Paris this year.
“Roger, Novak or I won’t be in the first three spots in the ranking forever. The rest of the people want to win, too. And there’s Andy as well, who had an injury, which makes it always tough to return but he has the chance to be back in the top positions this year and competing for every title. For the rest of the players like Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov it is normal that they want to win tournaments as well but it seemed that Roger and Novak are in a good shape. We will see what is going on,” Nadal said about the current situation at the top of the rankings and the young guns.
“I prefer not to talk about the Davis Cup at the moment. In Spain it is a difficult situation right now and it is also difficult for me to say if I am going to play or not as there are still a couple of months until Spain’s tie against Russia in July,” Nadal said about the annual team competition and the new situation with Gala Leon having a female Davis Cup captain for the first time, which was a headline event in Spain.
Novak Djokovic changed his personal schedule concerning the first events before the first Grand Slam of the year. “I thought that I needed a little bit more matches before Melbourne. It wasn’t the case in the previous years when I was only playing here in Abu Dhabi and then went straight to Australia but I felt I needed to play an official tournament, so I decided to go to Doha for the first time,” the world number one told.
“I celebrated last night very quiet at home. Obviously waiting for twelve o’clock to see the firework everyone was speaking about. Baby was in bed already, so we had to go as well. The daily rhythm has changed,” Djokovic laughed. “It definitely gave me a larger prospective in life. It deeply fulfilled me like nothing before. Everything I have done and achieved before, nothing could really compare to becoming parents. My wife and I were really blessed to have this opportunity to become parents and we try to enjoy every moment of that,” Djokovic said about his new situation being a father of a son.