WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
With reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition after testing positive for Covid-19 upon arriving in Abu Dhabi earlier this week, it left tournament organizers little time to find a replacement to face Olympic gold medalist and 23rd-ranked Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Have no fear, Ons Jabeur is here in the Emirates capital city for the 13th edition of the year-end exhibition that begins today at the International Tennis Centre in Zayed Sports City. The World No. 10 from Tunisia will make history as the first Arab to play in the three-day festival which runs Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening.
— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) December 15, 2021
While the men’s side of the tournament has a longer history and generally garners more attention – this year’s field includes three Top 15 players in No. 5 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 6 Rafael Nadal of Spain, a five-time Mubadala champion, and No. 14 Denis Shapovalov of Canada plus No. 23 Taylor Fritz of the United States, and No. 25 Dan Evans and No. 134 Andy Murray, both from Great Britain – this year is the fourth edition that has included a women’s match.
Jabeur, whose world ranking peaked at No. 7 this season, won her first WTA title at Birmingham, England on grass – making history as the first Arab to win a WTA Tour event – and reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She was also a finalist in two other tournaments, on clay in Charleston, S.C. and on an outdoor hard court in Chicago.
— Mubadala World Tennis Championship (@MubadalaWTC) December 14, 2021
“I am proud and honored to be the first Arab woman to play the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. 2021 has been a terrific year for me and I know that the Championship is the best start to an exciting 2022 season,” Jabeur said, quoted by the tournament’s website.
“Abu Dhabi is a major sports destination and has always felt special to me, every time I come. I am grateful and amazed by the incredible welcome and support of the people. I look forward to bringing my A-game to the court and put on the best show possible for Abu Dhabi tennis fans.”
The Jabeur-Bencic match is scheduled not before 8 p.m. local time Friday evening (5 p.m. CET) on Stadium Court. It follows the first match at 4 p.m. between Fritz and Shapovalov followed by Evans versus Murray not before 6 p.m
Ruud, Thiem late scratches from Abu Dhabi
Besides Raducanu having to withdraw, Fritz and Evans are late replacements for Casper Ruud of Norway and Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Fritz, the first American to play Mubadala since Andy Roddick and James Blake in 2009, replaced Ruud, who ruled himself out through injury. “It’s very unfortunate that I have to withdraw as I was really looking forward to making my debut in Abu Dhabi,” Ruud said, quoted by the tournament website. “Injuries are part of sport and while I won’t be making the trip this time, I hope to play in the Championship many times in the years to come.”
Thiem said on social media Tuesday: “I was looking forward to making my return to competition at Abu Dhabi but I feel that I am not yet ready to compete at the highest level. It’s disappointing to not take part this year but I need to continue my preparation for the upcoming season. I truly hope to return to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the future.”
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) December 14, 2021
Daniell named Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award winner
New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell has been named the 2021 recipient of the ATP’s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award. First given by the ATP in 1983 to John McEnroe, the award honors a person – not necessarily an ATP player – for their humanitarian effort. He joins an illustrious list of past winners that includes Ashe, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Thank you @atptour 🙏
This is a huge and unexpected honour, and looking down the list of recipients gives me goosebumps.
Also a deep thank you to everyone who has been part of @HIAorg – we won this as a team.
Now let’s turn this recognition into more real-world impact! 🤜🤛 https://t.co/RpZLS7Re71
— Marcus Daniell OLY (@MarcusDaniell) December 14, 2021
“My journey in philanthropy began in 2015,” Daniell wrote in a first-person letter posted on the ATP website this week. “It was the first year I focused on doubles and it was also the first year I made money playing tennis. I was able to put some savings away in the bank at the end of the year and with that little bit of financial security came this really strong urge to give back.”
Wedding bells are ringing
The December off-season has been a busy one for weddings. In the past couple of weeks, Daria Gavrilova of Australia, Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain and Great Britain’s Johanna Konta have all tied the knot and used their social media platforms to spread the good news.
— Daria Saville (@Daria_gav) December 6, 2021
View this post on Instagram
— Johanna Konta (@JohannaKonta) December 14, 2021
An evening watching basketball
.@FCBbasket players took the chance to make a picture with tennis no1 and big Crvena zvezda fan @DjokerNole, who enjoyed in @EuroLeague game of the week tonight 👑🔴⚪️#EuroLeague #NovakDjokovic #EveryGameMatters #TogetherWeCan pic.twitter.com/5y2khuh1md
— KK Crvena zvezda mts (@kkcrvenazvezda) December 15, 2021