Day One of the 11th Edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship was nothing short of spectacular – and Day Two certainly didn’t disappoint either with the world’s top male players in action at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City.
Defending MWTC champion and world number six, Kevin Anderson, overcame crowd-favourite and world number two, Rafael Nadal, in three tightly fought sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to secure his place in tomorrow’s final. He will next play world number one, Novak Djokovic, in what will be a rematch of the 2018 Wimbledon final, after the Serbian beat Next-Gen star Karen Khachanov in the day’s other semi-final. The Championship decider will take place at 7pm tomorrow.
In the day’s first semi-final, 17-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, went up against South African, Kevin Anderson. Nadal who had not played since injuring his knee at the US Open did well on court, however, it was the 6’8” South African who eventually prevailed in a match that lasted one hour and 50 minutes.
The players held serve in the opening exchanges before Nadal stepped it up a notch to break Anderson in the seventh game. However, Anderson who has never beaten Nadal in five attempts, broke right back to be on level terms at four games all. But Nadal’s class showed once again as he broke Anderson’s serve in the next game to take a 5-4 lead and comfortably held his next service game to take the opening set 6-4.
The second set started much like the first with both players holding their serve before Anderson broke Nadal in the sixth game. That was all opening the world number six needed as he closed out the set 6-3 in just 32 minutes.
Last year’s Champion, Anderson, had to dig deep in the sixth game of the third set as he found himself down 15-40 before his big booming serves got him out of trouble. Anderson built on that momentum as he broke Nadal in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead before holding serve to book his place in the final tomorrow.
Post the match, Nadal congratulated Anderson on the win before announcing sadly that he would be withdrawing from tomorrow’s 3rd place play-off. The current world number two explained that he felt pain after long periods without playing and his fitness was not yet where it should be, requiring additional recuperation.
Taking Nadal’s place in the 5pm match against Khachanov will be world number eight, Dominic Thiem. Play will be immediately followed by the Championship decider between world number one, Novak Djokovic and defending champion, Kevin Anderson at 7pm.
Following the match, Anderson, said: “Coming here has been an ideal introduction into the season – I’ve had two matches – Chung and Nadal – and it’s been great to be playing again in a competitive atmosphere. Nadal was being really aggressive today and it was pretty challenging He gave me very little rhythm and consequently I felt I was playing more of a reactive game.
Looking forward to 2019, he added: “My goal is to beat the top players at the biggest moments, in the biggest tournaments. They are the most experienced out there and you need to win a lot of matches to put yourself in that position. So that’s the biggest goal this year.”
The other semi-final saw world number one Novak Djokovic take on Karen Khachanov. The Russian who had beaten Djokovic in their last meeting in the Paris Masters final could not repeat that form as the Serbian had a comfortable straight sets victory 6-4, 6-2 in a match that lasted just over an hour.
After the match, Djokovic said: “I am excited to get back on the court after missing Abu Dhabi last year due to my injury. I was very pleased with how I played today and this tournament is a great lead up to the new season. With regards to my fitness, it is really important for me to narrow the gap between where I am and where I want to be.”
Commenting about his upcoming match against Anderson, the world number one concluded: “It will be my second match here and so far he’s got more hours on the court, but we are still getting match fit so it will be interesting to see how it comes together tomorrow. He is a really powerful player and my goal is to weather the storm. I am not stronger than he is, but I can tactically do things to outsmart him. That will be my objective tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, world number 8, Dominic Thiem went down in straight sets to Australian Open semi-finalist, Hyeon Chung 6-2, 6-3 in what was their first-ever meeting. The South Korean, Chung, showed why he is highly rated on the Tour as he made light work of his higher-ranked opponent with Thiem struggling to get any momentum. The match was wrapped in an hour and 8 minutes.
Action on Day Three of the MWTC will begin at 5pm as Next-gen star Khachanov takes on Thiem in an exhibition match followed immediately by the Championship final at 7pm. However, there will be plenty of entertainment ahead of the matches as the Tennis Village will open at 12noon.
MWTC tickets can be purchased from www.ticketmaster.ae or by calling 800 86 823 and all Virgin Megastores across the UAE.