Court Report: Australian Open to introduce a fifth-set tiebreaker in 2019


The first ATP and WTA tournaments of the 2019 season don’t begin until Sunday and Monday, but eight of the biggest stars in tennis will take to the court this week at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, a three-day exhibition event that runs from Thursday to Saturday.

Six of the eight players competing in Abu Dhabi are men: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Karen Khachanov and Hyeon Chung. The women’s event is a guaranteed blockbuster match-up, as Serena and Venus Williams will square off on Thursday night.

The six-player men’s draw starts with two “quarterfinals” on Thursday—Anderson against Chung and Thiem against Khachanov—with Djokovic and Nadal receiving byes. The semifinals take place on Friday, pitting Djokovic against the Thiem-Khachanov winner and Nadal against the Anderson-Chung winner.

“I love coming to Abu Dhabi and I can’t wait to see my fans again,” Djokovic said. “The championship offers the perfect opportunity to fine-tune my preparations ahead of the Australian Open and I’m really looking forward to competing there again. I very much hope I get to walk away with my fourth win.”

“Abu Dhabi is one of my favorite places to play,” said Nadal, already a four-time champion at the event. “The climate, atmosphere and enthusiasm from the crowds in Abu Dhabi provides the perfect start to the new season. The tournament brings together players at the top of their game.”

Serena, Venus, Djokovic, Nadal prepare for 2019 seasons in Abu Dhabi

Serena, Venus, Djokovic, Nadal prepare for 2019 seasons in Abu Dhabi

Djokovic and Nadal have the most-contested men’s rivalry in the Open Era, having played each other 52 times (Djokovic leads 27-25). While the Williams vs. Williams rivalry isn't as prolific—Serena leads their head to head, 18-12—it's equally as compelling. The sisters are two of the most accomplished players in tennis history, with 30 Grand Slam titles between them—23 for Serena and seven for Venus—and both are former No.1s.

“I loved playing in Abu Dhabi last year, and I am excited to return to such a beautiful city and see my fans,” Serena commented. “I’ll be playing against my sister, so the match will be even more special.”

This is the 11th year of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, held at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi. It’s a great warm-up for the Australian Open as the surface and conditions are similar to the first Grand Slam of the year, which begins in just a few weeks.

In 2019, the ATP, WTA—and so much more—are on Tennis Channel Plus: