Novak Djokovic to join Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova at 2019 Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Serbian star will take on Rafael Nadal for a record fifth crown in UAE showpiece

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2018 in Abu Dhabi, on December 29, 2018. Djokovic won a fourth Mubadala World Tennis Championship title, coming back from a set down to beat Kevin Anderson 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. / AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE
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Novak Djokovic said he was delighted to be challenging Rafa Nadal for a record fifth title in Abu Dhabi after confirming he will defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).

The Serbian star, the joint-most successful player in MWTC history alongside long-time rival Nadal, was announced as the fifth player for the 2019 lineup.

Djokovic, 32, and Nadal have both won the pre-season tournament four times and the 16-time Grand Slam champion will go head-to-head with Nadal in aiming to become MWTC's most decorated player at the December 19-21 tournament.

The Spanish world No 1 confirmed his participation in October, as did Russian world No 4 Daniil Medvedev.

Having enjoyed a trophy-laden year, Djokovic said that he hoped to hit the ground running as he prepares for another 12 months of competition, with the MWTC being the perfect start to his season.

"Abu Dhabi is a special place and one where I have tasted success consistently. The courts are great, the spectators know their sport, and the atmosphere is thoroughly enjoyable,” said Djokovic.

“The lineup for the tournament is really strong. You always want to play challenging opponents early in the season in order to get a good measure of yourself and I am hoping I can put in place a few things that I have been working on in the off-season."

John Lickrish, CEO Flash Entertainment, said: “Novak’s confirmation is proof that the Mubadala World Tennis Championship has developed into a premier tournament, attracting the cream of tennis talent from across the world.

"Novak is no stranger to Abu Dhabi, having won the title four times and I am confident that he will come into the tournament firing on all cylinders.

“Innovation and a constant uptick in the value we aim to provide to spectators has been a hallmark of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. This year, the change in dates, a line-up brimming with class, and the transformation of the International Tennis Centre into a wholesome entertainment village, are part of our efforts to make the tournament a certainty in the calendars of UAE residents and visitors.”

Djokovic won the 2018 event by beating South African Kevin Anderson in the final, clinching the title with what he described as "one of the best match points I have ever had".

Nadal, Djokovic and Medvedev are currently competing in the season-ending ATP Finals in London, and the next time they will be sharing a court will be at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City.

The remaining three players of the six-man tournament are set to be announced shortly.

Meanwhile, the one-off women's match - entering its third edition this year - has already been filled and will see former world No 1 Maria Sharapova take on American teen sensation Amanda Anisimova.

Djokovic will return to Abu Dhabi after another stellar season during which he won two Grand Slam titles - his seventh Australian Open and fifth Wimbledon - two Masters 1000 titles, in Madrid and Paris, and the Tokyo Open.

Djokovic is also in with a chance to claim the year-end No 1 ranking for a sixth time, which would move him ahead of Nadal, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors, and pull him level with Pete Sampras.

However, Djokovic was beaten by Dominic Thiem in the ATP Finals in London on Wednesday morning and now has to beat Roger Federer in his final group match on Thursday in order to advance to the semi-finals.