Abu Dhabi: Fans of 11-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, both here in the UAE and around the world, will have to wait a little longer for the Spanish star’s return after he was forced to make a last-minute withdrawal from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which kicks off on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City.
Three of the world’s top tennis stars are already here in the capital and the remaining three, including Nadal, were to arrive on Wednesday. However, late on Tuesday, the two-time winner of the three-day event pulled out with a stomach virus.
World No 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic is already here and in training along with countryman Janko Tipsarevic, the world No 9, and world No 6 Tomas Berdych. World No 3 Andy Murray and world No 5 David Ferrer are expected today.
“I am very disappointed that I will not be able to compete this year in Abu Dhabi,” Nadal said in a statement. “I was really excited about returning to play and I always have a wonderful experience at the event and this is the first time I will miss the tournament.
“My rehab has gone well, my knee feels good and I was looking forward to competing. Unfortunately, doctors have informed me that my body needs to rest in order to fight this stomach virus. I would like to say sorry to all my fans in the United Arab Emirates and around the world, but I hope to play and win in Abu Dhabi again next year.”
Tournament organisers confirmed that Nadal will be replaced, with IMG Middle East Managing Director Greg Sproule saying: “Naturally we are all extremely disappointed that Rafael will not be able to attend this year’s event, especially when his progress towards full fitness was going so well. But a player’s health is always the number one priority so we understand that Rafa must follow medical advice. We wish him well with his recovery.
“The Mubadala World Tennis Championship is committed to bringing the best players in the world to Abu Dhabi and we are finalising plans to bring in another top player to our already extremely strong player field. With five of the top-10 players in the world already here, including world number one Novak Djokovic trying to defend his title and Andy Murray returning as a Grand Slam champion, it’s going to be another memorable three days of tennis here in Abu Dhabi.”
The six stars will be involved in the three-day winner-takes-all $250,000 (Dh918,250) event, which starts with two matches on Thursday — Murray against Tipsarevic followed by Ferrer versus Berdych.
“Tickets have been sold out for the second day while a few day one and day three tickets are still available,” Sproule said.
In day two action, the Murray-Tipsarevic winner will take on Nadal’s replacement while the Ferrer-Berdych winner will meet Djokovic.
Murray, who enjoys a large support here in the UAE, is expected to be a big draw since breaking his maiden tag as far as grand slams are concerned. An Olympic gold medal followed by the US Open title has finally helped the Scot join the big boys.
Murray beat Federer in the semis and then Nadal in the finals here in the inaugural year in 2009 is making his appearance for the first time since then.
In addition to the tennis, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship is packed with off-court action for all the family, according to the organisers. From 12 noon on Thursday players will be holding coaching clinics, before signing autographs in the afternoon as well as a special Kids’ Question Time session in the Tennis Village. The village opens at 10.30am, with entry, meeting the stars and soaking up the tennis atmosphere all free.
For a limited time only a special festive season promotion has been introduced this year offering a 20 per cent discount on category two tickets for the championship. Applicants should simply enter the code ‘santa’ when buying tickets at www.thinkflash.ae.