Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson will seek to close out the year 2018 with a title at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. For Anderson, it will be a second successive title at the event. For Djokovic, his fourth, and first since 2013.
The event, being an exhibition, has a field of six elite players if you exclude the one-match women showpiece. As such, it starts from the quarterfinals. Anderson, ranked sixth in the world, has had to work for his wins so far. He rallied from an opening set loss to beat Hyeon Chung in nearly two and half hours in the quarterfinals.
Against Rafael Nadal, a tougher test even though the Spaniard was rusty, Anderson had to sweat to win. Victory in three sets against the former world No.2 underlined his tenacity and saw him book a date with Djokovic, who played brilliantly, as usual, against Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the semis to register a straight-set victory.
Djokovic will have enough confidence going into this match, given the history between them. The Serb has defeated Anderson in eight of their previous nine encounters. However, it doesn’t seem like the 31-year-old 14-time Grand Slam champion will treat the match with levity.
“Kevin is a very powerful player,” said Djokovic. “He is a tall guy and he hits the ball very fast. He is playing really well. He beat Nadal and I thought it was a nice match. I watched it.
“My goal is always to try and weather the storm. I cannot hit stronger than he does, especially on the serve, but I can tactically do some things to outsmart him.”
Both players have just returned from the off season and are still, perhaps, working their way back to full fitness. That makes this encounter quite a difficult one to make a call on, and even Djokovic shares the same sentiment.
“We are still kind of engaging our engines a little bit,” the Serb said. “So it will be interesting to see how it pans out.”
Novak Djokovic vs Kevin Anderson (Over 21.5 games at 1.63 on Wakabet)
Djokovic has enough in his head and hands to punish Anderson, but I expect the South African to come all out with his big serves, which should do well enough to push the Serb. Also, Anderson has shown great resolve so far in Abu Dhabi. He keeps that up and we will have a closely-fought, entertaining contest. To go over 21.5 games at 1.63 is a good one!
In the third-place match, which will also take place today, Saturday, at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City, Dominic Thiem will replace Rafael Nadal, who pulled out on Friday, and will take on 22-year-old Karen Khachanov. It’s a rematch of their Thursday quarter-final encounter, which Khachanov won in straight sets.
I fancy Khachanov for the win again. The Russian has beaten Thiem in all two of their previous matches, that includes Thursday’s, and both have been in straight sets. More so, Thiem hasn’t been anywhere close to his best. After losing to Khachanov in the quarters, he was beaten by Hyeon Chung in the fifth-place match in straight sets. Not good!
Khachanov for the win at 1.38 on Wakabet. Quite generous, that.