Mubadala World Tennis Championship Preview: Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray Lead Six-Man Field In Abu Dhabi

Rafael Nadal Madrid 2021
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So often in recent years, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship signals the unofficial welcoming of the new tennis season. And in its 13th edition since the tournament’s inception in 2009, the event will return to the Zayed Sports City (16-18 December), in Abu Dhabi, after a one-season hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-day exhibition event is a major spectacle for tennis fans. The sport’s biggest stars have always accepted invites to compete and refine their games ahead of a long season.

This year, there is no shortage of star power. Three of the world’s Top 20 players lead the six-man field in the men’s draw. Rafael Nadal is a five-time champion in these parts. He won the last staging of this event in 2019, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. Unfortunately for the Greek, he has not made time to be in Abu Dhabi this month after undergoing elbow surgery during the off-season.

Nadal is joined in the draw by World No. 5 Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Dan Evans, American Taylor Fritz, and former World No. 1 Andy Murray.

Nadal Returns After Injury-Hit 2021, But Thiem is Out

Rafael Nadal has not played any tennis since the ATP 500 event in Washington. Shortly after losing to Lloyd Harris in August, the Majorcan made public of his debilitating foot injury. He brought his season to a halt, missing the US Open for the second successive year, and promised to return at the standards he wants.

Dominic Thiem’s much-anticipated return to action is delayed. The hard-hitting Austrian was scheduled to play in Abu Dhabi this week, but pulled out at the last minute. Thiem hasn’t featured in an ATP event since damaging the tendon sheath in his wrist at the Mallorca Championships earlier this season. While he did not undergo any surgery, he was forced to miss the entire second half of the 2021 campaign in order to give the injury sufficient rest time.

Norway’s Casper Ruud is also out due to an undisclosed injury issue. Thiem and Ruud have since been replaced by Dan Evans and Taylor Fritz respectively.

 

Mubadala World Tennis Championship Draw

Nadal and Rublev received a bye into the semifinals by virtue of being the top two seeds, meaning they will play winners from day one.

The matches on the slate on day one will see Fritz face Denis Shapovalov (winner to play Rublev). That is before the all-British encounter between Evans and Murray (winner to play Nadal).

The one-off women’s match will be played on the opening day when Switzerland’s Olympic Gold Medalist Belinda Bencic takes on Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian was instilled as a late replacement for Emma Raducanu. The 2021 US Open champion withdrew from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.

Main Photo from Getty.