Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Tournament Preview

December 27, 2012 · Print This Article

by: Tom Cochrane

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship kicks off in Abu Dhabi this evening local time, with the 3 day exhibition event rocked by yesterday’s announcement that Spanish star Rafael Nadal has had to pull out of the event.

The tournament was to have marked Nadal’s return to competitive tennis after the 11-time Grand Slam champion spent the second half of 2012 battling knee problems. Instead, a stomach virus means Nadal will have to wait until next week’s ATP Tour event in Doha, Qatar to make his comeback. Nadal’s place in the Abu Dhabi tournament will be taken by his Spanish compatriot, Nicolas Almagro. Currently ranked 11 in the world, Almagro has enjoyed another fine season on the ATP Tour in 2012 and will complement the high quality line-up in Abu Dhabi.

Day 1 of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship sees US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray take on Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic before the Spanish warrior David Ferrer locks horns with Czech star Tomas Berdych. Almagro, benefitting from being a direct replacement for Nadal, enjoys a first round bye and will play the winner of Murray and Tipsarevic on Friday. World number one Novak Djokovic also has a first round bye and will play the winner of Ferrer and Berdych in Friday’s other semi-final. The final will take place on Saturday afternoon local time.

Tipsarevic has had a consistent year on the ATP Tour in 2012, repeating his 2011 achievement of making the US Open quarter-finals and cementing a spot in the world’s top 10. Tipsarevic is at his best on fast hard-courts and will no doubt be looking to make a deep run at the Australian Open in Melbourne next month. Often overshadowed by his higher-profile compatriot Djokovic, Tipsarevic enjoyed a win over the world number one this season and will test Murray in their showdown today.

Having had the enormous burden of not winning a Grand Slam lifted from his shoulders after his epic US Open win this year, Andy Murray says he now feels more relaxed on court, and I suspect that Murray’s relaxed mindset will translate into even better Grand Slam performances in 2013. Murray, who is returning to the United Arab Emirates capital for the first time in 3 years, is sure to benefit from the support of the large British expat population in Abu Dhabi as he looks to build momentum in the run-up to Melbourne Park. I’ll take Murray to earn a 3 set victory over Tipsarevic and progress to a semi-final clash with Almagro.

Today’s other clash between David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych is a repeat of the recent match between the pair on the last day of the Davis Cup final between their respective nations. While Berdych celebrated ultimate success with his Czech Republic teammates after countryman Radek Stepanek upset Nicolas Almagro in the decisive fifth rubber, Ferrer did all that he could to deliver Spain another Davis Cup title, beating Stepanek on the opening day of the final and then dismantling Berdych in a clinical fashion on the final day.

Berdych will be looking to perform better against Ferrer in Abu Dhabi than he did in Prague, but I believe the Czech prefers opponents who play a hard-hitting power game to himself and who effectively challenge Berdych to a shoot-out, rather than opponents of Ferrer’s nature, who like to keep the ball in play and gradually grind down their opponents. Berdych, who was a US Open semi-finalist this year after upsetting the great Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, is clearly capable of defeating any player on his day, but Ferrer is in the best form of his life right now, having collected an incredible 7 titles on the ATP Tour in 2012, including the prestigious Paris Masters. I’ll back Ferrer to get the better of Berdych in two tight sets.

Enjoy today’s matches and I’ll be back with another report from sunny Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

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