Six of the top 10 men's tennis players on the planet, including Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, will begin preparation for the 2014 season this December in Abu Dhabi, site of the 2013 Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
The singles-only exhibition tournament runs from Thursday, Dec. 26, through Saturday, Dec. 28, and has been held annually since 2009, with Nadal and defending champion Djokovic combining to win four of the past five titles.
David Ferrer, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will complete the six-man field.
Nadal and Djokovic are each coming off dream seasons that saw them add to their Grand Slam count, reignite their epic rivalry and win a plethora of prize money along the way.
Meanwhile, Murray is making his return from back surgery that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2013 season. The 26-year-old Scotsman has fallen to No. 4 in the world but is coming off a strong year that saw him win Wimbledon.
Murray is hoping he can regain his form this winter in the United Arab Emirates, per The Times of India: "Coming back from injury is never easy and the lineup this year is so strong but it's exactly the test I need to see where my game is at."
Ferrer trails only Nadal and Djokovic in the world rankings and is coming off one of the best years of his career. He reached his first-ever Grand Slam final at the French Open in June 2013 and won two singles titles to add to his impressive resume.
Wawrinka is all the way up to No. 8 in the world and is looking to overtake Roger Federer as the top-ranked Swiss player. The 28-year-old reached his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open last September and will enter 2014 with lofty expectations.
Tsonga is the lowest-ranked player in this year's field and will be aiming for redemption in 2014. The powerful Frenchman struggled mightily in 2013, battling injury and poor form en route to a disappointing 39-16 singles match record that included just one title. A knee injury late in the year forced him to withdraw during the second round at Wimbledon and miss the U.S. Open.
With a loaded field of competitors and $250,000 in prize money at stake, this year's Mubadala World Tennis Championship is sure to provide plenty of fireworks.
Day 4 Scores
Novak Djokovic def. David Ferrer (7-5, 6-2)
Rafael Nadal def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7-6, 6-3)
Novak Djokovic has survived a grueling showdown with David Ferrer to capture the 2013 Mubadala Tennis Championship. The 26-year-old champion won in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2, to start his 2014 campaign off unbeaten.
The Serbian superstar outlasted his Spanish counterpart over the course of a hard-fought battle in Abu Dhabi. The strong effort put forth by Nole resulted in this third-straight title in this event, an impressive feat considering the level of competition that is usually on hand in the UAE.
Djokovic will take home the entire $250,000 purse in prize money. This unique structure is truly winner-take-all, something the Djoker is certainly happy about now that he has emerged victorious.
Still, Nole should have his eyes on bigger prizes. The world No. 2 has a chance to ascend back up to the top of the standings in 2014 and will be eyeing some Grand Slams in the process, including the upcoming Australian Open in January.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal took home third-place in this event, as the “King of Clay” turned in a solid hard court performance against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the consolation game played ahead of Ferrer and Djokovic’s showdown.
The Spaniard gritted out a 7-6, 6-3 victory against his French opponent, although it was for little else besides pride, as Djokovic will be the only one compensated with prize money.
Regardless, it is a respectable start to the new season for Rafa and a solid rebound after being stunned by Ferrer in the semis of this tournament.
It’ll be interesting to see how Djokovic, Nadal and the rest of the tennis’ biggest stars fare in Melbourne when the 2014 Aussie Open starts on Jan. 13.
Day 3 Scores
David Ferrer def. Rafael Nadal (6-4, 6-4)
In a stunning upset, Ferrer defeated his long-time nemesis and countryman in straight sets on Friday. It was the second time in seven tries Ferrer has beaten Nadal in 2013, and just the sixth time he's topped him in 27 career meetings.
The 31-year-old Spaniard moves on to Saturday's final.
Novak Djokovic def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7-6, 6-3)
After a hard-fought first set, Djokovic dispatched Tsonga easily in the second frame to advance to the finals to face Ferrer. It was the eighth-straight win for Djokovic over Tsonga. The Frenchman hasn't beaten Djoker since 2011.
Tsonga will now play Nadal in the third-place match on Saturday.
Day 2 Scores
Andy Murray def. Stanislas Wawrinka; 6-3 6-4
Andy Murray's return from injury came full circle on Friday after the 2013 Wimbledon champion marked his comeback with a win over Stanislas Wawrinka to seal fifth place in the Mubadala World Championship.
The Scot was beaten by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the first hurdle of the competition on Boxing Day, but returned to register a straight-sets victory over Swiss Wawrinka.
The Times' Neil Harman confirmed news of the win over Twitter:
Andy Murray is 1-1 in Abu Dhabi. Defeats Stan Wawrinka 63 64 in final match of great year and moves on to Doha for first tournament of '14— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) December 27, 2013
Murray's year was brought to an abrupt halt after he elected for back surgery late in the season in order to resolve a recurring issue, with eyes set on improving once again in 2013.
Commenting on his return and the progress of his health, Murray was reported by ESPN saying:
I came here to get a couple of competitive games under my belt and I'm happy to get two matches against top players. I feel good, but everyone needs matches - especially after missing 3 months. The intensity on tour is higher than ever and all players need matches.
The Scot is far from back to his fighting best, but the result against Wawrinka will undoubtedly give the 26-year-old fresh encouragement ahead of the new campaign.
Day 1 Scores
David Ferrer def. Stanislas Wawrinka; 7-5, 6-1
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Andy Murray; 7-5, 6-3
David Ferrer won Thursday's opening match vs. Stanislas Wawrinka comfortably in straight sets. However, it wasn't always smooth sailing for the veteran Spaniard.
Ferrer found himself trailing 5-3 midway through the opening set before reeling off four straight games to stun Wawrinka 7-5 in the opening set. The 31-year-old had seized all momentum at that point and wouldn't look back in the second set, closing it out at 6-1, per the tournament's official Twitter account:
With his win, Ferrer advances to the Friday, Dec. 27, semifinals, where he will take on top seed Rafael Nadal. Meanwhile, Wawrinka drops into the fifth-place play-off, which will be contested on Friday, Dec. 27, prior to the semifinals.
In the day's second quarterfinal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was one step ahead of a rusty Andy Murray, winning in straight sets to advance to Friday's second semifinal matchup against Novak Djokovic.
Murray will gear up for a consolation match against Wawrinka.