Mubadala Takeaways – Tennis Column #34

December is a slow month for all tennis fans. Reading about retirements and new coaches is all you can do all month. Therefore any chance to watch tennis is always welcome. Ladies challenger in Limoges and Mubadala World Tennis Championship gave us a break this week. Abu Dhabi tournament with the honorable name was in my focus and here are a few takeaways from this exhibition tournament.

Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Name “World Tennis Championship” sounds great but in reality tournament in Abu Dhabi is a very well-paid exhibition in the middle of practice season for players. That does not mean we did see bad tennis. Tennis was well above average thanks to participating players. However, we should not make strong conclusions from those seven matches. Please keep that in mind when reading the text below.

Six players took part in matches so I will take it one by one.

Hyeon Chung

2 games, 2 losses, sets: 0:4

The results show one story. Two losses in two games with zero in the “sets win” column give a clear picture. However, Chung lost three of those four sets in tie-breaks. Chung is currently at 128th place in ATP ranking and played two players who are in the top 30 (Khachanov 17th, Rublev 23rd). From this perspective, his performance was not bad at all. He was able to play at the same level as players 100+ places higher in the ranking for 75 percent of his court time. That makes Chung look much better and I would not underestimate him during next season.

Andrey Rublev

2 games, 1 win – 1 loss, sets 2:2

Andrey Rublev is a promising player who can reach the top ten in a few years but his performances in Abu Dhabi were rather disappointing for me. I expected he will be able to hold on longer against Tsitsipas and I expected he will be more persuasive against Chung.

Karen Khachanov

3 games, 1 win – 2 losses, sets 2:4

His performance at Mubadala can be summarized as one great set, two average sets, and two bad sets. His best tennis came against Djokovic in the first set and that is too little for a player with ambitions to be in the top ten. He played desperately against Nadal and just average tennis against Chung. Too many unforced errors against Chung was a real surprise for me.

Novak Djokovic

2 games, 1 win – 1 loss, sets 3:2

I have to say I expected more from Novak. There were periods in both of his games when he looked unfocused, making too many mistakes. Even with those “outages”, he can beat players outside the top ten like Khachanov. But he can hardly beat top players like Tsitsipas. With regards to my predictions for 2020, I believe he is in the middle of practice and he is doing everything to be at his best when it matters most, in Melbourne for Grand Slam.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

3 games, 2 wins – 1 loss, sets 5:3

I can imagine, Stefanos Tsitsipas would wish for the Australian Open to start tomorrow. His performance was at the same level as in London at the ATP Finals. This time with a little bit different finish but still it was great tennis from him.

There are actually two things Tsitsipas could be worried about. Can he keep this level for another two weeks till the season starts? Timing is everything and as I believe Djokovic will be much better in January, I doubt Tsitsipas will be better when the Australian Open starts. The second thing that bothers me is the ability to beat two of three G.O.A.T.s at one tournament. His ultimate goal at the moment is to win Grand Slam, that requires to beat two of  Nadal, Djokovic, Federer in one tournament (and probably in following matches). And that is the thing he did not achieve yet (even in ATP Finals he lost with Nadal).

Rafael Nadal

2 games, 2 wins, sets 4:1

There is no need to talk about his first game against Khachanov. The match with Tsitsipas says it all. When it seems that Nadal plays at 100 percent it is not true. He still can add something to it. I was really stunned by how he handled the loss of the first set to get back much stronger. I am just curious if he can stay healthy as his tennis looks so physically demanding. But that was already explained to me in our previous article: Nadal – It’s not over yet.

We are two weeks from the start of the new season and one month from the first Grand Slam tournament. Let me just hope that Tsitsipas and Nadal will be in the same form in January as today and Djokovic in much better form.

Merry Christmas and All the best in 2020!


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Tennis Pro Guru

Simon is the leading editor of from 2015. He is an avid tennis player from age of 5, however, he never reached the pro level. Still, he likes playing tennis on different courts, with different rackets, and against different opponents. In his free time, you can find him watching all possible tennis matches he can find on the web or tv. Challenger or Grand Slam? It does not matter, just tennis matters.

He currently plays with:
Racket: Wilson Shift 99 V1
Strings: Babolat RPM Blast
Grip: Head Xtreme Soft
Shoes: Asics Gel Dedicate 7 (for hard outdoor and indoor courts) & Asics Gel-Game 5 Clay (for clay courts),
Balls: Dunlop Fort All Courts and Head Championship
Bag: Axiom Backpack


  1. I agree that Djokovic was unfocused, and he still almost beat Tsitsipas. He does not approach minor tournaments with the same focus or intensity that he approaches majors. If an unfocused Djokovic that has not played a competitive match in 6 weeks almost beat a focused Tsitsipas that already had a competitive match under his belt, I think he is in great shape going into the 2020 season. I do not think he went into the Moubadala tournament with the intention of winning. He just saw it as an opportunity to prepare for the Australian Open.

    • That is a good remark. The timing and focusing on what is really important is and will be a key to success as Novak gets older. I hope you are right and he will be sharp as always in Melbourne.

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