Russia's Maria Sharapova
Russia's Maria Sharapova hits a forehand return to Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday, January 18, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The opening day of Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2019 on December 19 promises a huge added attraction when Maria Sharapova, the tennis diva and five-time Grand Slam champion, takes on Australian Fed Cup finalist Ajla Tomljanovi in an exhibition match.

The meeting will see the climax of the opening day of the three-day festival of tennis and entertainment, which runs from December 19-21. It will give a chance for Tomljanovic to continue her great form which saw her play a leading role in helping Australia reach their first Fed Cup final since 1993.

Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic
Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic. Image Credit: AFP

Tomljanović will be the first Australian, male or female, to feature at the Mubadala World Championship where she replaces Amanda Anisimova who has picked up an injury.

With more than 300 WTA singles victories to her name, Tomljanovic is seeking to use her Mubadala debut as a springboard to a successful 2020 season. “I’ve heard amazing things about Abu Dhabi and the championship, and I’m really looking forward to playing in front of this crowd against Maria. It will give the perfect challenge ahead of a big season,” said Tomljanović.

Anisimova is understandably disappointed to miss out on making her championship debut in Abu Dhabi and a chance to play in the UAE capital.

“It’s really disappointing to have to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. I was looking forward so much to coming to Abu Dhabi and I hope to make the trip in the future,” said the 18-year-old.

Tomljanović though, will be seeking to capitalise on the hardcourts at Abu Dhabi’s International Tennis Centre, and will be sure to put on a show for fans in Abu Dhabi.

Doors to the Tennis Village open at 12 pm on Day 1 with world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas taking on world No. 10 Gaël Monfils in the first match at 4pm, followed by World No. 5 Daniil Medvedev vs Hyeon Chung, before the women take centrestage.