Kevin Anderson: I want to face Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at Mubadala World Tennis Championship

The defending champion at the Abu Dhabi tournament believes playing the game's best will help him for bid to win maiden grand slam title in 2019

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Kevin Anderson is hoping to face both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) this week to help him with his target of winning a first grand slam title in 2019.

The South African, who is back in Abu Dhabi to defend the MWTC title he won 12 months ago, is looking to establish himself in the top five in the men's rankings, as well as winning that elusive major championship, after enjoying the best season of his career this year.

The 32 year old, who starts his defence on Thursday against Hyeon Chung in the quarter-finals at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City, could face 17-time major winner Nadal in the semi-finals and world No 1 Djokovic in the final if results go his way.

This is a challenge he welcomes as he told The National: "Any time you can get on court with Djokovic or Nadal it is a great challenge.


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"One of my goals next year is to have better success against those guys as that will help me at the bigger events, so the more time you take to the courts against them the better and I hope our paths will cross and I get that opportunity."

The world No 6 reached his second grand slam final this year, losing to Djokovic in straight sets at Wimbledon. This came after he had lost the US Open final in 2017 to Nadal.

This will be Anderson's third appearance at MWTC after he had lost in the 2016 event in the quarter-finals to Milos Raonic.

South Africa's Kevin Anderson holds the trophy after he beats Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the final match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Kevin Anderson became the fourth winner of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in 2017. AP Photo

Last year he fared considerably better as he did not drop a set as he triumphed against Pablo Carreno Busta, Dominic Thiem and Roberto Bautista Agut to become only the fourth man, after Andy Murray, Nadal and Djokovic to win the tournament.

"I am looking forward to a great event," he added. "There is going to be some great competition and that is exactly what you are looking for."

The MWTC is the precursor to the start of the 2019 season, with the Australian Open, the first major of the year, only two weeks away after the conclusion of the action in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Anderson believes the chance to get early matches under their belt before heading to Australia means that the event will always be an attractive proposition for the leading players in the men's game.

"Even though it is billed as an exhibition, the players do take it really seriously because it is just before the Australian Open and you are coming off the off-season and it is a great opportunity to get back on the match court and get the competitiveness going," he said. "That is why I think you see such good players going there year in and year out."

Anderson's match with Chung opens the action on Thursday at 4pm, with the winner facing four-time champion Nadal on Friday.

Thursday's other quarter-final sees Thiem go up against Karen Khachanov, with the victor in that contest facing Djokovic, who will be competing for the first time since 2015 in Abu Dhabi, in the semi-finals.

The other action on the opening day is the second staging of a women's exhibition match, with Serena Williams, who competed last year against Jelena Ostapenko, returning to take on her older sibling Venus.

Tickets for the MWTC start at Dh100 for adults, while children can enter free on the opening day. For more information, visit