Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship is no ATP event, but for the last few years, it has traditionally been regarded as the beginning of the new Tennis Season. This year, the Championship was held during 26th – 28th December, 2013, with the participation of 6 players ranked within the top 10 in the world. Last year’s final went down as a memorable event in the tournament’s short history, when the debutant Spaniard and world no. 16, Almagro Sanchez fully stretched defending Champion Novak Djokovic in a 2-hour 34 minute final. In this year’s tournament, the 6 participating tennis stars were; Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka. The tournament was a test-station for Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, who had undergone a back surgery in September. Though Murray lost his first match to Jo Wilfried Tsonga, he came back strongly to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-4 in the next match. For the third year in a row, Djokovic won the tournament by defeating Tsonga in the semifinal and David Ferrer in the final. Rafael Nadal claimed the third place with a victory over Tsonga. From Abu Dhabi, Nadal, Ferrer and Murray have moved to Doha for the first ATP event of the year, the 2014 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, to get further match practice until January 5. From Doha, all of them will be bound for Melbourne for this year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, beginning January 13, 2014.
Different tennis superstars have their own agenda for the ensuing year, for reasons unique to them. Roger Federer has something to prove about his capability of bouncing back into top action and he is working hard with that objective. Rafael Nadal is the current king of Tennis and he would like to stay at the top for as long as he can. Ferrer is performing so well that he has now jumped to no. 3 ahead of Murray. Andy Murray needs to assure himself that his brief absence from tennis did not blunt his quicksilver reflexes. Djokovic has recently appointed Boris Becker as his new coach and he believes he will have a fruitful association with him. In Abu Dhabi, Becker was there to watch Djokovic play and record his third consecutive triumph in the Mubadala show.
Hiring of past Grand Slam winners, as coaches, is an emerging new trend amongst top tennis stars. The announcement of Djokovic choosing Boris Becker, as the head of his coaching team, came two weeks ago to coincide with Djokovic being named as International Tennis Federation Men’s World Champion for the third year in succession. Incidentally, Serena Williams was similarly honored in the women’s category.
Talking about celebrated coaches being preferred by top ATP players, one may recall that Andy Murray had appointed Ivan Lendl as his coach in 2011 and recorded two Grand Slam victories under his watchful eyes. Other tennis players, who have worked with former top ATP tournament winning coaches in recent time are; Stanislas Wawrinka and Maria Sharapova. While Wawrinka is enjoying his success working with former World No.2, Magnus Norman, Sharapova was not so fortunate. She had hired 8-time Grand Slam winner Jimmy Connors as her coach but their association lasted a little over a month. Differences developed between the two and Sharapova fired Connors after just the one match.
Coming back to Boris Becker and Djokovic, it is noteworthy that the 26-year-old Serb already had a coaching team that includes; Marian Vajda, Miljan Amanovic and Gebhard Phil-Gritsch. All these guys will have no problem working with Boris Becker to help Djokovic, who is the Australian open champion for the last three years. He finished 2013 as a finalist at Wimbledon and US Open; and semifinalist at Roland Garros. Other than that, Djokovic also won seven ATP titles in 2013. Rafael Nadal has proved repeatedly that he is an undisputed king on the clay surface at Rolland Garros with 8 victories in Paris since 2005. Becker, a 6 Grand Slams and 64 ATP tournaments winner, was the youngest men’s player ever to win the Wimbledon as a 17 year old. It seems Becker could be part of a possible Djokovic strategy of winning the 2014 French Open, a Grand Slam title that has eluded him so far.