There would seem to be no room at December’s winner-take-all Abu Dhabi post-Christmas exhibition for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with officials quick to deny that the apparent exclusion of the pair of aces has anything to do with the fact that neither is managed anymore with tournament organizer IMG.
Instead, the event will focus on newly crowned Wimbledon winner Andy Murray after Novak Djokovic signed up for a return only last week.
Murray’s participation at the December 26-29 tournament was confirmed a day after he made history by becoming the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon. World No. 1 Djokovic will return to try and earn a third straight crown in the UAE capital.
“I’ve always received great support when I’ve played in Abu Dhabi and I’m looking forward to getting back on the court and trying to win the title again – like I first did back in 2009,” said Murray, winner of the inaugural edition four years ago.
Tournament head Greg Sproule of IMG appeared to gloss over the intended absences of Federer and Nadal. Federer last played two editions ago while Nadal had to withdraw from the event a year ago due to his absence with a knee injury.
And the likelihood of the Spaniard returning only months after he quit IMG to take up management of his own affairs – Federer did the same several seasons ago – seems almost impossible. “No, there was not a clause in the contract for Nadal to appear for a subsequent edition,” said Sproule. “Every year with professionals of this caliber their playing schedules are determined pretty far in advance. [But] obviously, we would love to have him back.”
Instead he shifted gears to his latest draw cards: “It’s a dream scenario for us having Andy and Novak returning again particularly with the accomplishments they have had so far this year and of course in light of Andy’s success at Wimbledon,” Sproule told local media.
“The sport loves a great rivalry. These guys have a lot of great tennis ahead of them and we’re really excited and grateful that the top two players have chosen to return to Abu Dhabi.”
Sproul also threw a bone to the Federer cause: “As we said last year, we would love Roger to come back and play. He’s a good friend of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. He participated in the first four editions and we’d love to have Roger back. We will make exciting announcements on all other participants in due course.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire