The end of December is a festive season for everyone around the globe but for tennis players, it’s the time of the year where they wrap up their preseason training blocks, pack their bags and get ready to get back to work.
For Abu Dhabi, this period sees the emirate welcome some of the world’s best players to the courts of Zayed Sports City for the annual Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
A marquee lineup features in this weekend’s 11th edition of the tournament, which will witness the return of superstars like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, and the debut of others like Venus Williams and Karen Khachanov.
Here are some of the main storylines surrounding the players that will light up the UAE capital from December 27-29, as they prepare for the 2019 tennis season.
The 37-year-old Serena will continue her search for an all-time record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title in 2019 and will once again grace the stadium at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City to put the finishing touches to her game ahead of the New Year.
A mother to 16-month old daughter Olympia, Serena returned to the tennis tour from maternity leave last March at Indian Wells and has since risen to 16 in the world rankings. She contested just seven events in 2018, reaching two Grand Slam finals in the process, at Wimbledon and the US Open.
The American’s US Open ended in controversy as she had a standoff with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who gave her a game penalty during her final defeat to Naomi Osaka. Serena accused Ramos of sexism and has not played a tournament since.
Abu Dhabi will be Serena’s first on-court appearance since New York and she’ll be taking on her sister Venus on Thursday (20:00 local time).
Can Serena tie Margaret Court’s record in 2019? How much will she play throughout the season? Does she regret any of her actions during that infamous final? Those are just some of the burning questions surrounding her return to action.