Know the stars competing at Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ahmed Rizvi has profiled all six competitors taking part in the tournament, which starts in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic is the world No 1. Ali Haider / EPA
Novak Djokovic is the world No 1. Ali Haider / EPA

Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

• Age: 27 (May 22, 1987)

• Ranking: No 1

• Titles: 48

• Titles in 2014: 7

• Grand slam titles: 7

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Champion: 2013, 2012, 2011

Winner of the Abu Dhabi title for three years on the trot, the Serbian returns to the capital as the world No 1, reclaiming the top position from Rafael Nadal in July after winning his second Wimbledon title. Facing a stiff challenge for the top spot from a resurgent Roger Federer towards the end of the season, Djokovic made a strong finish, winning the China Open, the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals to remain ahead. He finished 2014 with a tour-high seven titles, which included four Masters 1000 championships, the Tour Final and a grand slam title, and he is being billed as the man to beat in 2015, with many expecting him to match his stunning ascent of 2011. Abu Dhabi, then, could see the start of that glorious reign.

Rafael Nadal (Spain)

• Age: 28 (June 3, 1986)

• Ranking: No 3

• Titles: 64

• Titles in 2014: 4

• Grand slam titles: 14

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Champion 2011, 2010

A two-time Abu Dhabi champion, Nadal had a forgettable 2014. He lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final of the Australian Open, went down in a couple of upsets early in the European clay-court season, but then won his ninth French Open crown. It has been a bit downhill since. The Spaniard lost in the second round at Wimbledon and dropped to No 2 in the rankings, and then skipped the entire North American hard-court swing because of a wrist injury. He made a return to the courts after three months, only to be forced out with appendicitis. He is returning here after surgery and the Mubadala World Championships is a great opportunity for the Spaniard to get back into the swing of things.

Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland)

• Age: 29 (March 28, 1985)

• Ranking: No 4

• Titles: 7

• Titles in 2014: 3

• Grand slam titles: 1

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Sixth 2013, 2010

In his previous appearance at the Mubadala Championship, the Swiss finished at the bottom of the pile, losing both his matches. But a month later he made a stunning run in Melbourne, defeating Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Nadal on his way to the Australian Open title. That Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of season has continued for Wawrinka as he became the first reigning grand slam title champion to lose in the first round of the following major. He failed to progress beyond the last eight at Wimbledon and the US Open, but reached the semis at the World Tour Final. Fans have been left a bit frustrated by his lack of consistency and hope he can change that aspect of his game in 2015.

Andy Murray (UK)

• Age: 27 (May 15, 1987)

• Ranking: No 6

• Titles: 31

• Titles in 2014: 3

• Grand slam titles: 2

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Champion 2009

Like Nadal, Murray also struggled through 2014, failing to recapture his peak form since returning from a back surgery. Scratchy in the first eight months of the year and going through a transition with the exit of Ivan Lendl as coach and the appointment of Amelie Mauresmo, the Scot failed to reach a final in 16 tournaments, with his best being two semis. Murray slipped to No 12 in the world, the Scot’s lowest ranking since 2008, but then fought back with three titles towards the end of the season – in Shenzen, Vienna and Valencia – to qualify for the year-end championships and finished the season as No 6. Having found some consistency towards the end of the year, Murray will be hoping 2015 will see him reclaim his position among the top four.

Feliciano Lopez (Spain)

• Age: 33 (September 9, 1981)

• Ranking: No 14

• Titles: 4

• Titles in 2014: 1

• Grand slam titles: None

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Debut

Considered one of the most promising youngsters in the early years of the new millennium, the Spaniard has surprisingly failed to achieve results befitting his talents. Coming from a nation of clay court greats, Lopez is most comfortable on grass courts with his big serve and volleys, and has beaten players such as Marat Safin, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick on those lush green courts. His latest two titles have both come on grass and the Spaniard arrives in Abu Dhabi as the world No 14, the highest ranking of his career. With four grand slam title champions in the six-man field, Lopez is hoping that testing himself against the best will set him on the right track for 2015.

Nicolas Almagro (Spain)

• Age: 29 (August 21, 1985)

• Ranking: No 71

• Titles: 12

• Titles in 2014: 0

• Grand slam titles: None

• Best performance in Abu Dhabi: Runners-up 2012

Ranked as high as No 9 in 2011, the Spaniard slipped from No 14 to No 71 in 2014 because of a shoulder injury in the early part of the year and then a foot injury, which forced him to retire from the French Open and skip Wimbledon and the US Open. Before the injuries took over, though, Almagro had a few exciting results, including a victory over Nadal in Barcelona, which brought his compatiot’s 41-match winning streak at the tournament to an end. The 2012 Abu Dhabi runner-up, by far the lowest-ranked player to appear in the tournament. will be hoping to put the disappointments of 2014 behind him as he makes a fresh start to his career.

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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