ABU DHABI: Ons Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab tennis player ever, has joined the line-up for the 13th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Center in Abu Dhabi.
She will also make history as the first Arab to play in the tournament when she takes to the court on Thursday as a replacement for US Open champions Emma Raducanu, who withdrew from the championship after testing positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Abu Dhabi.
Jabeur, from Tunisia, who reached a career-high No. 7 world ranking last month, will face Tokyo Olympics singles gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the headline women’s match on Thursday, the opening day of the festival that runs from Dec. 16-18.
“I am proud and honored to be the first Arab woman to play the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. This has been a terrific year for me and I know that the championship is the best start to an exciting 2022 season,” she said.
Jabeur, Africa’s No. 1, has enjoyed an outstanding season, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and winning her maiden WTA title by defeating Daria Kasatkina at the Birmingham Classic, making history as the first Arab to win a WTA Tour event.
“Abu Dhabi is a major sports destination and has always felt special to me, every time I come, I am grateful and amazed by the incredible welcome and support of the people. I look forward to bringing my A-game to the court and put on the best show possible for Abu Dhabi tennis fans,” Jabeur said.
Championship organizers also confirmed US No. 1 Taylor Fritz and British No. 2 Dan Evans will feature in the much-anticipated men’s draw.
Fritz, who currently has a career-high No. 23 world ranking, is the first American to play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship since Andy Roddick and James Blake in 2009.
He will play world No. 14 Denis Shapovalov in the opening match on day one.
“Playing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, with such a strong line-up, gives me a great chance to start my 2022 season against the best and test myself. I look forward to making my debut in the championship and meeting everyone in Abu Dhabi,” said Fritz.
The American replaces Casper Ruud, who has been ruled out through injury.
Ruud said: “It’s very unfortunate that I have to withdraw as I was really looking forward to making my debut in Abu Dhabi. Injuries are part of sport and while I won’t be making the trip this time, I hope to play in the championship many times in the years to come.”
Meanwhile, Dan Evans, the British player who reached world No. 22 in September, replaces Dominic Thiem, the former US Open winner who expressed disappointment over his withdrawal.
“I was looking forward to making my return to competition at Abu Dhabi, but I feel that I am yet not ready to compete at the highest level,” Thiem said.
“It’s disappointing to not take part this year, but I need to continue my preparation for the upcoming season. I hope to return to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the future.”
Evans will take on compatriot and two-time MWTC winner Andy Murray in a battle of Britain in the second match on day one.
“I’m excited about playing in Abu Dhabi. I know there’s a lot of British fans there, so it’s great that I’m facing Andy. It’s a great opportunity and the perfect test to start my new season.”
John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, the championship owners, said: “Unfortunately, we have had to make some changes to our line-up due to injuries and Emma’s positive COVID-19 test. We wish them all a speedy recovery and hope to see them back on court and in Abu Dhabi again soon. We are however delighted to still deliver a world-class line-up, including a first for Arab tennis. We look forward to an exciting three days ahead.”