Novak Djokovic says he is excited to take part in Dubai's World Tennis League

The 21-time Grand Slam winner leads a team at the tournament, which also features stars including Iga Swiatek and Nick Kyrgios

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Novak Djokovic is “excited” about taking part in the inaugural World Tennis League in Dubai, which kicked off on Monday at the Coca Cola Arena.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios were among those in action on opening day – on opposing teams – as the Kites defeated the Eagles 30-27.

The unique mixed four-team concept features daily tennis match-ups followed by a music concert every night.

DJ Tiesto performed a set on Monday after Felix Auger-Aliassime helped secure a victory for the Kites, by besting Kyrgios 7-5, 6-3.

Djokovic arrived in Dubai after attending the World Cup final in Doha on Sunday. The 21-time Grand Slam champion will be leading the Falcons team alongside Aryna Sabalenka, Paula Badosa and Grigor Dimitrov this week at the WTL.

Before the matches began on Monday, Djokovic enjoyed a hit with Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum – famously known as Uncle Saeed – on the newly-installed orange and blue court at Coca Cola Arena.

“I’m very excited to anticipate what is going to be these next five days for us in the tournament, with music and entertainment and sports and tennis. I’m looking forward to it,” Djokovic told Dubai Sports Channel.

US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and Kyrgios opened the scoring for the Eagles by defeating freshly-crowned Paris Masters winner Holger Rune and ex-world No 5 Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-3 in mixed doubles.

“I thought the chemistry was great right from the start,” said Canadian Andreescu.

“We’re both pretty outgoing people so I thought that we’re going to bring great energy and we played very well. I think we both have great hands. I think he’s rubbing off on me a little bit on the serve and on the volleys, so hopefully we can keep it going.”

Kyrgios, who won the doubles title at the Australian Open this year, is a big fan of team events and brought his entertaining brand of tennis to the crowd in the arena on Monday night.

“It’s a new experience for the fans and the players. There aren’t many events where I can be sitting next to Rohan Bopanna and Bianca Andreescu, so that’s pretty cool. It gives tennis a bit of a different dynamic,” said the 22nd-ranked Kyrgios, who was being interviewed by the TV commentators while sat on the bench supporting his teammate, Caroline Garcia against Swiatek.

Nick Kyrgios of Eagles in action against Felix Auger-Aliassime of Kites during their men’s singles match on day one of the World Tennis League at Coca-Cola Arena on December 19, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Getty

Kyrgios had his most consistent season to date in 2022, reaching a maiden Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon, lifting the trophy in Washington, and amassing a 37-10 win-loss record. He also qualified for the ATP Finals in doubles with partner Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Asked if he would sign up for another year like that heading into 2023, the 27-year-old Australian said: “Would I sign again? Honestly, I don’t know about it. It took a lot of work this season, a lot of hard work, a lot of discipline.

“It seems the better you do, everyone wants a bit more of you and it becomes more stressful. But I had a lot of fun this season. And I’m finally just proud to say I made a Slam final and started to meet some expectations. I had a lot of fun, I enjoyed it, definitely felt better off and on the court.

“Hopefully I can just win a Slam then retire,” he added with a chuckle.

Three-time Grand Slam winner Swiatek narrowed the Kites’ deficit by downing Eagles star Garcia 6-3, 6-4, which was a rematch of their group-stage clash from the WTA Finals last month.

Photo: World Tennis League in Dubai

“Truth be told I wasn’t counting games. I’m pretty happy I’m able to play here and also focus on some other stuff than usual during matches, because I can change something up in my tactics or work on something else or just implement the stuff I’ve been working on during preseason,” said Swiatek after the win.

“The score isn’t the most important thing here, mostly it’s fun and learning. So I’m happy I played a solid game.”

Swiatek spent the last week training in Dubai ahead of the WTL and said she preferred to keep the things she’s been working on “a mystery”.

“There is always something to improve,” added the Pole, who won the US Open, Roland Garros and six other titles this year.

“I’m 21 so I feel like I can actually do many things. But on volleys, for sure we’ve been working on just my volley game. Rohan (Bopanna) there (from Team Eagles) taught me volleys right before the tournament, so it’s actually his fault I made that volley on game point (against Garcia).

“I’m pretty happy I can use experience of such amazing players and learn a lot.”

In the last showdown of the day, Auger-Aliassime took the opening set 7-5 against Kyrgios to level things up for the Kites against the Eagles with 24 games apiece – in this league format, every game counts in a match-up between two teams.

The Canadian world No 6 got the break of serve he needed in the second set to wrap up the victory over Kyrgios 7-5, 6-3 and secure the win for the Kites.

WTL action resumes on Tuesday with Djokovic expected to suit up for the Falcons against a Hawks squad that features Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Elena Rybakina and Anett Kontaveit. Wizkid will close out the night with a performance for the fans in attendance.

Updated: December 20, 2022, 2:38 PM