Ons Jabeur, Taylor Fritz, and Dan Evans replace Raducanu, Thiem, and Ruud in Abu Dhabi
Starry Mubadala World Tennis Championship line-up features Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Belinda Bencic, Andrey Rublev
Now in its 13th edition, the three-day Mubadala World Tennis Championship will again feature some big names taking advantage of the warm, dry conditions of Abu Dhabi to fine-tune their preparations ahead of the journey south for the month-long Australian Open swing.
Leading the line-up are Rafael Nadal, who has been absent from competition since treatment for a foot injury in early September. He has been training at his Academy in Kuwait—playing some exhibition tennis into the bargain—prior to taking part in the Abu Dhabi event where he has lifted the trophy five times before.
Also in the line-up is world No5, Andrey Rublev, Wimbledon semi-finalist, Denis Shapovalov, and two-time former MWTC winner, Andy Murray. However, instead of facing Dominic Thiem, Murray will play compatriot, Dan Evans, who reached a career-high 22 in September.
This was also to be Thiem’s return after a long injury absence. The Austrian won just nine matches from 18 played in 2021 due to a persistent wrist injury, but has postponed his return until Australia.
Instead, then, Evans will take on Murray for what, remarkably, will be their first official contest.
Also replaced in the line-up is Casper Ruud, who put together one of the best seasons on the tour during 2021. The 22-year-old Norwegian rose from 27 via five titles to qualify for the World Tour Finals in Milan, where he went onto reach the semis. He was due to make his debut in Abu Dhabi, but pulled out with injury, to be replaced by world No23 Taylor Fritz.
Perhaps the biggest blow to the event came in the shape of Emma Raducanu, the teenage star who burst through the US Open from qualifying to take the title—ranked 150. The British woman was due to face the woman she beat in the quarters in New York, the Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, but instead she became the latest player to contract the Covid virus. She will therefore be forced to isolate.
However, it has left space for an outstanding substitution in the shape of Ons Jabeur, the highest-ever ranked Arab player. The Tunisian reached a career-high ranking of No7 last month after winning her first title in Birmingham and making the finals of two more events. She also reached the quarters at Wimbledon and the semis in Indian Wells, all the while attracting fans with her crafty, entertaining tennis.
Jabeur’s only previous match against Bencic was ended prematurely by injury—in Madrid in May—but the two will reunite to conclude the opening day of competition on Thursday evening.
Schedule at International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City
Thursday 16 December
Denis Shapovalov vs Taylor Fritz 4pm [NB UAE is 4hrs ahead of GB]
Andy Murray vs Dan Evans 6pm
Ons Jabeur vs Belinda Bencic 8pm
Friday 17 December
Fifth place play-off 3pm
Andrey Rublev vs Fritz or Shapovalov 5pm
Rafael Nadal vs Murray or Evans 7pm
Saturday 18 December
Third place play-off 5pm
Tickets for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship are available via the website: www.mubadalawtc.com