World Tennis League unveils player roster for season 2 in Abu Dhabi

Above, men’s world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz is among the latest names to be announced for the tournament. (AFP)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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World Tennis League unveils player roster for season 2 in Abu Dhabi

  • Iga Swiatek, Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, Andrey Rublev, Stefano Tsitsipas all previously confirmed
  • 16 global stars set to take part at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, latest being ATP world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 10 Taylor Fritz

ABU DHABI: Meteora World Tennis League officials have revealed a stellar line-up for the second season of the competition, confirming the final 10 players and the teams they will represent in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

Men’s world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz, Taylor Fritz (No. 10), and Casper Ruud (No. 11), are the latest names to be announced for the tournament, taking place at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena from Dec. 21 to 24. Grigor Dimitrov (No. 14) and Frances Tiafoe (No. 16) will also play.

In addition, the WTL will also see Caroline Garcia (No. 20), Sofia Kenin (No. 34), Leylah Fernandez (No. 36), Spanish star Paula Badosa, and 16-year-old sensation Mirra Andreeva in action.

The latest additions join an already stellar roster that includes women’s world No. 1 and reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, and men’s No. 3 Daniil Medvedev. Also taking to the court will be No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina (world No. 4 and 2022 Wimbledon champion), alongside No. 5 Andrey Rublev, and No. 6 Stefano Tsitsipas.

With the full 16 players revealed, the organizers also announced the four teams that the players will be representing.

Sabalenka will play for the SG Mavericks Kites, owned by SG Sports, the sporting arm of APL Apollo Tubes, taking charge for the first time in WTL. She joins Tsitsipas, Badosa, and Dimitrov in a team that will be coached by Robert Lindstedt.

Another new owner, Punit Balan Group, has purchased Team Eagles which will be represented by Medvedev, Andreeva, Rublev, and Kenin. They will be coached by John-Laffnie De Jager.

The Honor FX Falcons, owned by Honor FX features a team line-up of Rybakina, Tiafoe, Fernandez, and Fritz, with Chris Groh aiming to lead them to glory.

For The Hawks, Swiatek, Hurkacz, Garcia, and Ruud will join forces, coached by Simon Aspelin. The Hawks’ team owners will be announced by event organizers in the coming weeks.

Over the course of four days, the teams will compete against each other in men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles categories as they aim to advance and bid to become champions on the final day.

On the competition’s opening day, Hawks will begin their campaign against Honor FX Falcons, with Swiatek taking on Rybakina. The opening matches will be followed by Team Eagles’ encounter against SG Mavericks Kites, with a potential matchup between Medvedev and Tsitsipas on the table.

Day two on Friday will see Rybakina’s Honor FX Falcons meet Sabalenka’s SG Mavericks Kites before PBG Eagles, led by Medvedev, and Team Hawks featuring Ruud close out the action.

Saturday’s final day of group play will see teams looking to book their places in the next round as Rublev’s PBG Eagles take on Tiafoe’s Honor FX Falcons while SG Maverick Kites with Badosa go up against Garcia’s Hawks later in the evening.

Rajesh Banga, chairman of World Tennis League, said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing more star names to our exceptional tennis line-up for season two of the World Tennis League.

“These players are of the highest caliber and prominent names around the world so we’re pleased they will be competing in the unique tournament at our new home in Etihad Arena.”


Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

Updated 44 sec ago
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Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

  • Reigning champion Medvedev recovers from losing opening set to beat Sonego in tight encounter on center court
  • Hurkacz and Korda through to quarterfinals in straight sets, Qatar Open finalist Mensik forced to retire

DUBAI: Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev overcame a spirited Lorenzo Sonego on Wednesday to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The world No. 4 looked shaky during the opening exchanges, winning just 53 percent (10/19) of points behind his first delivery as Sonego took full advantage and deservedly won the first set. Medvedev, to his credit, recovered quickly and served with far more aggression in the second and third sets, firing off both wings and hitting pinpoint serves.

The decisive moment came during a tense fifth game in the final set as the No. 1 seed broke Sonego’s serve with a running forehand winner and safely saw out the match thereafter. Medvedev will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after Qatar Open finalist Jakub Mensik was forced to retire through injury early in the second set of their clash.

Hubert Hurkacz will join Medvedev in the last eight after a battling 7-6, 6-4 victory over Australian Christopher O’Connell. The world No. 8 will make his fourth quarterfinal appearance in Dubai when he takes to the court to face Ugo Humbert, the French No. 1, on Thursday evening.

One man who will not be competing in the quarterfinals is Karan Khachanov after the No. 4 seed was sent crashing out of the tournament following Jiri Lehecka’s stunning comeback victory (6-7, 7-6, 6-4).

Lehecka, the world’s No. 36, fell to his knees in elation after securing a spot in the last eight at the expense of in-form Khachanov, who had come into the match on the back of five straight wins. The 27-year-old won his sixth career title in Doha last week and looked on course to continue that momentum after clinching the first set against Lehecka.

Lehecka had other ideas, though, saving five points during a tense second set, coming back from 0-3 in the tiebreak that later followed, and from 2-4 in the third set to secure a second top-20 win of the season — after a mammoth three-hour clash on court one.

Meanwhile. Sebastian Korda continues to enjoy his maiden Dubai tournament, needing just 43 minutes to breeze past Botic van de Zandschulp and set up a quarterfinal meeting against 2022 winner Andrey Rublev.

Korda dropped just one game in an emphatic straight sets victory (6-1, 6-0) over the Dutch No. 2.


No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

Updated 28 February 2024
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No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

  • The 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships winner receives standing ovation as he bows out with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat in what is likely to be his final appearance at event
  • No. 2 seed Andrey Rublev defeats qualifier Arthur Cazaux 6-4, 6-4, and Alexander Bublik enjoys a hard-fought 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor

DUBAI: Andy Murray’s hopes of fairy-tale ending to what seems likely to be his last appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships were dashed by in-form Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who defeated the 36-year-old Scot 6-2, 6-4 on center court at Dubai Tennis Stadium on Wednesday night.

The three-time Grand Slam champion, winner of this tournament in 2017, cut a frustrated figure against the No. 5 seed, who is 11 years his junior.

Clearly desperate to give his enthusiastic and vocal Dubai fans something to cheer, Murray, who beat Fernando Verdasco in the final here seven years ago, could be seen continually talking to himself as he struggled with his own game and the energy of his opponent.

He won the opening game on serve but then Humbert, who needed three sets to see off veteran wildcard Gael Monfils in his opening match, broke serve twice in succession. He simply had too much for Murray to cope with and took the opening set 6-2.

The second set followed a similar path, with Murray holding serve in the opening game, only for Humbert to break twice in a row as he calmly wrapped up the set 6-4 to claim a spot in the quarter-finals.

Murray received a standing ovation as he left the court in Dubai for what is probably the final time, the fans acknowledging his service not only to the sport in general but to the evolution of this particular tournament.

After the game, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist admitted he is in the twilight of his illustrious career.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” he said. “I get asked about it after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play.

“I’m not going to talk more about that between now and whenever the time comes for me to stop. But yeah, I don’t plan on playing much past this summer.”

Humbert, who has an ATP title to his name already this year, thanks to victory in Marseille this month, was a picture of relaxation as he celebrated his victory and looked forward to the quarter-finals.

“Consistency has been the key for me this year,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m really happy that I’m playing well. It’s really nice to play in a venue like this in front of a great crowd. I was really calm today and knew what I needed to do.”

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 2 seed and last year’s beaten finalist, Andrey Rublev, was the first player to book a quarter-final berth, dashing the hopes of French qualifier Arthur Cazaux.

Cazaux, who was making his debut in Dubai this week, produced some fine tennis to get through the qualifiers and then defeat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 32. But Rublev took control of their last-16 clash on center court from the opening game, breaking his opponent’s serve and holding firm to take the first set 6-4.

The second set went with serve until Rublev, a winner in Hong Kong in January, broke Cazaux in the seventh game and held his subsequent serves to seal a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Alexander Bublik booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. Bublik, who survived a scare in his opening match when he came back from a set down against qualifier Tomas Machac, was once again pushed hard by Griekspoor, but dug deep to secure victory.


Saudi Arabia’s PIF, ATP announce multi-year strategic partnership to accelerate tennis growth

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on Wednesday announced a “multi-year strategic partnership” with the ATP. (PIF)
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s PIF, ATP announce multi-year strategic partnership to accelerate tennis growth

  • PIF’s Head of Corporate Brand Mohamed AlSayyad: “Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for growth of the global tennis landscape”
  • Massimo Calvelli, ATP CEO: “It’s a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport”

RIYADH/LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Association of Tennis Professionals have signed a multi-year strategic partnership that marks a significant shared commitment to developing global tennis for players, fans, tournament organizers and stakeholders at all levels.
The agreement means the PIF becomes the official name partner of the ATP Rankings, celebrating players’ journeys and progress and championing excellence.
PIF’s Head of Corporate Brand Mohamed AlSayyad said: “Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for growth of the global tennis landscape, developing talent, fostering inclusivity and driving sustainable innovation.”
He added the partnership aligned with PIF’s broader vision of enhancing quality of life and driving transformation in sport, both within the Kingdom and across the world.
ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli added: “It’s a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport. With PIF’s dedication to the next generation — fostering innovation and creating opportunities for all — the stage is set for a transformative period of progress.”
PIF will partner with ATP Tour events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and the Nitto ATP Finals in Milan, as well as the Next Gen ATP Finals to be hosted in Jeddah until 2027.
The two bodies will also collaborate to elevate the long-term future of tennis. PIF will actively contribute to ATP’s OneVision Strategic Plan which focuses on driving unity, enhancing fan experiences and leveraging scalable growth opportunities across the sport.


Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open

Updated 28 February 2024
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Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open

  • The 20-year-old Rune, from Denmark, reached the semifinals in Acapulco last year
  • Fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Roman Safiullin 6-3, 6-4 and moved on to the second round where he will face Flavio Cobolli

ACAPULCO, Mexico: Second-seeded Holger Rune eased past American Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday and advanced to the second round of the Mexican Open.

Rune, ranked seventh in the ATP, needed 92 minutes to dispatch Mmoh, who made his way into the main draw through the qualification tournament.

The 20-year-old Rune, from Denmark, reached the semifinals in Acapulco last year. He advanced to face the winner of the late match between Aleksandar Kovasevic and Jordan Thompson.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Roman Safiullin 6-3, 6-4 and moved on to the second round where he will face Flavio Cobolli.

The 25-year-old Greek reached the semifinals last week in Los Cabos, Mexico, and is trying to win his first career 500 tournament.

Also Tuesday, Frances Tiafoe, seeded eighth, rallied to beat Max Purcell 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. He moved on to face Dominik Koepfer, who took care of Terence Atmane 6-4, 4— 6, 6-0.

Tiafoe is the highest-ranked American player in contention in the tournament after fourth-seeded Taylor Fritz and seventh-seeded Tommy Paul were knocked out on Monday.


Murray survives Shapovalov challenge to reach last 16 in Dubai

Updated 27 February 2024
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Murray survives Shapovalov challenge to reach last 16 in Dubai

  • Briton fights back from a set down to secure landmark 500th hard court career win and safe passage at ATP 500 event
  • Frustrated sixth-seed Mannarino falls to the Netherlands’ Botic Van de Zandschulp in straight sets after warning for on-court anger

DUBAI: Former champion Andy Murray dug deep to edge out Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 in front of a jubilant center court crowd at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday night.

The come-from-behind victory saw Murray — who claimed a solitary Dubai title in 2017 — register a landmark 500th career win on hard courts. He becomes only the fifth player to achieve the feat, joining luminaries of the game Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andre Agassi.

“It’s not bad, is it?” Murray said after reaching the milestone. “Hard courts have been a great surface for me over the years, and getting to 500 is a lot of matches. I am very proud of that, not a lot of players have done it, so it’s great to do it before I’m done.”

In challenging winds, the twilight ATP 500 round of 32 match started with eight consecutive service holds as both players found early rhythm. The first break points arrived in game nine, as Shapovalov found the outer corners of center court with a pair of dazzling one-handed backhand winners. After squandering the first chance, the 24-year-old grabbed the second to move 5-4 up, then held serve to claim the first set.

With both players holding serve for the first three games of the second set, Murray finally broke the big-serving Shapovalov in game four. The Brit’s ecstasy, however, immediately turned to agony as Shapovalov instantly broke back, then held, to make it 3-3.

As Murray, 12 years his opponent’s senior, increasingly threatened the Shapovalov serve, the Canadian’s monstrous first service cannons got him out of jail on numerous occasions. Murray, receiving, regularly stood some way behind the Dubai signage adorning the hardcourt beyond the baseline. The tactic proved fruitless, as Shapovalov unleashed 215-km serves time after time with pinpoint accuracy.

Battle-worn and grimacing repeatedly after several points near the end of the second set, Murray found emergency reserves of energy to force a tiebreak, which he won 7-5 to level the match — much to the delight of an adoring crowd.

Murray then broke Shapovalov in the opening game of the third set, which progressed on serve until 5-3 when Shapovalov suddenly found himself serving to stay in the match. With unforced errors now littering the Canadian’s game, Murray unleashed a glorious backhand winner at 30-30 to set up match point. It proved to be the only opportunity the British veteran needed, as Shapovalov volleyed Murray’s return of serve into the net.

In the ATP 500 event’s opening match on center court, the Netherlands’ Botic Van de Zandschulp upset sixth seed Adrian Mannarino, the world No. 19, in straight sets. With both players holding serve and almost politely swapping breaks enroute to a 6-6 stalemate, Van de Zandschulp, the world No. 75, managed to pull clear in the tiebreak to seal it 7-3.

After the umpire handed Mannarino a conduct warning between sets for smashing his racquet in frustration, the second set remained a tight affair. Eleven consecutive holds of serve suggested another tiebreak lay in wait, but Van de Zandschulp got the better of his French opponent’s service game at exactly the right time to triumph 7-6, 7-5 in just under two hours.

In the evening games under the lights, world No. 5 Andrey Rublev safely negotiated his route to the round of 16, defeating Zhizhen Zhang 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. The former Dubai champion was made to fight by his opponent, however, with the serve of the world No. 46 looking particularly formidable as he claimed the first set.

“It was a really tough match,” said Rublev. “I started well, but he was serving unreal. I don’t know how high his percentage was on the first serve, but it feels like some games lasted only one second, and serves were around 220 and super tough to return.”

A center court surprise came even closer in the following match as world No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz came within two match points of crashing out in the first round. His tie with German Jan-Lennard Struff went the distance as both men held their thumping serves for three straight sets, before the Pole squeezed through on the decisive set tiebreak to claim a 7-6, 4-7, 7-6 win.

“He’s such a great guy and great opponent,” said Hurkacz, who will face either Christopher O’Connell or Maximilian Marterer in the round of 16. “In the end, I got a little bit lucky, but I tried to compete until the last point and that is what I always try to do. It could have gone either way.”