British Number One Andy Murray starting off the New Year with a bang winning his second Abu Dhabi title after opponent World Number One Novak Djokovic pulled out out of the seventh Mubadala World Tennis Championships (MWTC) final due to an virus. Murray who won the inaugural event back in 2009 and was presented with the 2015 trophy by His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak, CEO of Mubadala.
The Super 6 at their official photocell (source:www.mubadalawtc.com)
The Super Six of Murray, Djokovic, Feliciano Lopez, Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka and Nicolas Almagro were all participants in the exhibition event at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City in the capital of the United Arab Emirates from 1st – 3rd January. The event, which serves as the unofficial season opener, saw top-ranked players Nadal and Djokovic given byes into the semi-finals.
Action took place on centre court at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi
The championships started with local up and coming local tennis stars enjoying an once-in-a-lifetime coaching clinic with the World’s top players. World number six Murray was on court with the winners of the under 10s and 12s age groups of the Mubadala Community Cup powered by Healthpoint, which took place at the end of 2014. Almagro put the winners of the under 14s event through their paces in another clinic. All the players held autograph sessions and meeting fans at the Tennis Village at some point during the event and Murray also held a meet and greet for fans at the newly opened Yas Mall in the capital.
A smiling Murray greets an excited sea of fans on his way to the practice courts
Murray takes a rest after practice on Day Two
In the opening matches on Day One, reigning Australian Open Champion Wawrinka beat Spaniard Almagro in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 and Murray beat Feliciano Lopez also from Spain in three sets 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 6-4. Ahead of his match against World Number Three Nadal on day Two, Murray took to the practice courts much to the delight of his fans and hit against local tennis sensation Kareem Allaf from Syria. Totally Tennis Alumni Josh Murray was on court with Murray and participated in a team ball rolling contest to determined who carries all the kit bags, won of course by the British Number One! The first Match of the second day saw an all Spanish showdown between Almagro and Lopez for fifth place which Almagro won 6-4, 7-6 in just over an hour.
Totally Tennis Alumni Josh Murray on court with the British Number One
Next up on court, Scot Murray faced Nadal in a packed stadium filled with Scottish flags that had just seen his mother Judy Murray, a recent contestant on the BBCs Strictly Come Dancing and tennis legend Pat Cash, judge an audience dancing competition to win an oversized tennis ball signed by Djokovic. Murray was too strong for Spain’s top player defeating Nadal 6-2, 6-0 in the first semi-final in a great match filled with long rallies. An excellent result for Murray, who beat a top-four player for the first time since the 2013 Wimbledon final, but he appeared to be struggling with a shoulder problem in the latter half of the match. After the match, Murray said, “For the second match of the year, I didn’t expect to play that well. It was a very solid performance and I was hitting the ball very, very clean. I hope I can keep it up.” (MWTC website)
Centre Court at MWTC
An on form Murray defeated Nadal in the semi-finals
Nadal was looking a little rusty in Abu Dhabi
Next up was three-time MWTC champion Djokovic against Wawrinka and coach Boris Becker was present in the crowd. The Serbian suffered a slight hand injury and while he had court side treatment from a member of his team, Wawrinka invited a lucky ball bay to play much to the delight of the crowd. Djokovic returned to the court and made quick work of the match with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over the World Number Four. Speaking after the match Djokovic said, “Abu Dhabi has shown again its love of tennis. It’s a great crowd that motivates you and inspires you to do your best. I’m sure it’s the same for all of the guys especially Andy. He played exceptionally well today so I’m sure it’s going to be a tough match tomorrow; a tough match but an exciting final.” (MWTC website)
Djokovic’s coach tennis legend Boris Becker on the right
The final day saw Nadal play Wawrinka in the third/fourth place play off match which Nadal won 7-6, 6-3 to finish in third place overall. This match was due to be followed by the highly anticipated final between Djokovic and Murray, with the World Number One looking for his fourth straight title win but unfortunately he was forced to withdraw due to illness. After the trophy presentation to Murray, Lopez and Almagro played an exhibition match umpired by tournament ambassador Cash to entertain the obviously disappointed crowd. Speaking after he was crowned champion for the second time, Murray said “It’s always nice to win and it gives that little bit of extra confidence. I was really happy with the way I was playing in the matches that I did play so it’s a great start to the year. It would have been perfect to play today, especially against Novak, but of course it’s not been possible due to his illness so I’ll celebrate the victory.” (MWTC website)
Djokovic shared his disappointment with fans, “I’ve been sick today with a fever and I’m not fit to play. he added “I love being a part of this tournament and I’m really disappointed not to have been able to take my chance of winning the trophy here again. Congratulations to Andy, it’s a shame I couldn’t play him but I’m sure we will meet again soon.Thank you to everyone for all of your support over the last few days.” (MWTC website)
Murray used the Abu Dhabi event as part of his build for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open that will take place in Melbourne from 19th January to 1st February. Murray flew to Perth yesterday to continue his build-up at this week’s International Mixed Tennis Team event the Hopman Cup. He will team up with British Women’s Number One Heather Watson to represent Great Britain at the event, with their opening match against Alize Cornet and Benoit Paire from France tomorrow.
Champion Murray with this years MWTC trophy (source:www.BBCsport)
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015.