In its 11th edition, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship will once again kick off the new tennis season. The exhibition tournament which takes place in Abu Dhabi will run from 27th – 29th December, and will act as the precursor to the 2019 calendar.
Last year, for the first time in the tournament’s history, women were also involved in the event as part of UAE's drive to encourage a stronger female presence in sports. This year, Serena Williams and sister Venus will headline the women’s lineup on Day 1.
The opening men's match will feature the defending champion Kevin Anderson against the highest ranked South Korean in history, Hyeon Chung.
Both players had contrasting seasons in 2018. Anderson maintained his impressive performances from 2017 and managed to reach another Grand Slam final in 2018, losing to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. His consistent rise in the rankings secured him a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals where he reached the semifinals, again losing to the Serb.
The 2018 season was a career-best one for the big-serving South African.
Chung, meanwhile, enjoyed a fantastic start to the year when he eliminated Djokovic and Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open. He lost to eventual champion Federer in the semis, when he was forced to retire through injury.
That was symbolic of the struggles Chung faced throughout the year as he kept going in and out of the hospital. However, he still found a way to cement himself in the top 25, the highest of any male player in South Korean tennis history.
How things might unfold
The courts and conditions at the MWTC are very similar to Melbourne, and we saw what Chung was capable of during the Australian Open this year. But he is coming up against a hardcourt specialist who has played at this event and won it already.
The South African also owns the South Korean in the head-to-head, with two victories. While this is just an exhibition where both players are still trying to get going from their holidays, we may not see the players play at 100%, but Anderson will likely be too strong in this one.
Pick: Kevin Anderson in 3.Published 25 Dec 2018, 13:20 IST