Two rising stars Marcos Baghdatis and Tomas Berdych have begun the countdown for the start of the global tennis season and their debut in Abu Dhabi for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Baghdatis, a former junior world champion and Grand Slam finalist, takes on world number six and 2010 Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych in the first match on the opening day of tournament at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, Zayed Sports City, on December 30.
An intense centre-court battle is predicted as the exciting duo renew a fierce rivalry having shared two victories each in their four previous encounters. For the winner a semifinal clash against world number one Rafael Nadal on day two of the championship lies in wait with both players relishing the prospect of breaking the deadlock to kick start the new season.
Speaking from his home in Limassol, Cyprus, following a pre-season training camp, Baghdatis said: “Last year I started to get back to my very best so I cannot wait to start my season in Abu Dhabi against a quality field in preparation for the Australian Open. Over the years I’ve had some great battles with Tomas and I’m expecting another very close match but hopefully the fans at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship will see me as the ‘local player’ and show me their support.”
He is relishing his maiden appearance in Abu Dhabi.
“It will be my first visit to Abu Dhabi but I’ve heard so much about the place and how’s it developing as a world-class sporting destination. I definitely want to put on a performance and find my rhythm early in the season,” he said.
2010 marked a welcomed return to form and fitness for both Baghdatis and Berdych as a series of encouraging performances helped the pair rise through the ranks and once again become serious Grand Slam contenders.
Having slipped from a career high ranking of 8th in the world in 2006 to 148th a year ago, the infectious Baghdatis returned to the top-20 this year after a two-year absence by reaching the semifinals or better at five events in 2010 including his fifth career ATP World Tour singles title in Sydney during a season which included notable victories over Nadal, Federer and his opponent in Abu Dhabi, Berdych.
An equally impressive 2010 season saw Berdych prove his game is more than capable of taking on the world’s greatest players on all surfaces. A final appearance at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami resulted from victories over top-seed Roger Federer and then world number 7 Robin Soderling in the semifinal.
But it was in the Grand-Slams that the big hitting Czech started to realise the potential his talent has threatened. Known for his big ground strokes and powerful serve, Berdych reached the semifinal of Roland Garros before grabbing the world’s attention at Wimbledon defeating six-time champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals and World No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals before falling to Rafael Nadal in the final.
Speaking ahead of his debut in Abu Dhabi Berdych said: “In 2010 my game took another positive step forward and I was pleased with the progress made during a satisfying season. For sure more people will be looking at me but I’m ready for that and the start of the new season with my debut in Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve been working hard in preparation for the year ahead and Abu Dhabi sounds like the ideal place to get match fit and check out the form of the other players. Matches with Marcos are always tough which is exactly what I need in the build-up to the Australian Open.”
The opportunity of facing world number one Rafael Nadal in the semifinal will not daunt either player with both players having the game and temperament for the big stage. Victory for Baghdatis on the opening day would see the charismatic right-hander given the opportunity to add to a recent win against Nadal in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati in August 2010.
A win for Berdych sets up a re-match and the chance to avenge this year’s Wimbledon final defeat to Nadal, a player he has already defeated three times in his career.
With tickets continuing to sell-quickly for the opening day of the championship which sees Baghdatis versus Berdych and Tsonga versus Soderling, anyone interested in securing a ticket for the three-day tournament at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City from December 30 to January 1, is advised to book tickets early.
Tickets for the showpiece can be purchased now www.thinkflash.ae or call 800 FLASH (35274), as well as www.boxofficeme.com, www.ticketingboxoffice.com and Virgin Megastores. For more information visit - www.mubadalawtc.com