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Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Djokovic and Nadal could battle

We preview the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are among the stars in action for the Abu Dhabi tournament.

Some of the game’s top players, including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, are poised to begin their Australian Open preparation at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

The lucrative exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi will see the world’s top two male tennis stars play ahead of the 2020 campaign on the ATP Tour, with preseason practise and training well under way prior to the first Grand Slam of the year.

While still taking place in 2019, the event runs from December 19 until December 21 and falls closer to the next year on Tour than the last, with participating players traditionally using it as a key part of their preparation for the year ahead.

Daniil Medvedev has pulled out with injury after his $1 million win at the Diriyah Tennis Cup, with Gael Monfils also unable to keep his commitment to play due to a problem he sustained at the same tournament in Saudi Arabia.

But six men and two women will do battle in the 12th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, with a pretty impressive line-up put together.

Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Who is playing?

As well as Djokovic and Nadal, the men’s field includes Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Hyeon Chung.

There is also a women’s match between Russian star Maria Sharapova and Ajla Tomljanovic, who stepped in for the injured American Amanda Anisimova.

Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Past winners

Djokovic and Nadal are both regulars at this tournament and they share the record for most wins.

Last year, Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson in the final to win the trophy for a fourth time, tying the record held by Nadal, whose last victory came in 2016.

Read: Nadal is on his best form for a decade

Anderson was the 2017 winner, while Andy Murray has triumphed on the other two occasions.

In the women’s action, Jelena Ostapenko and Venus Williams have won the two matches previously held, Serena Williams being the beaten player on each occasion.

What is the World Tennis Championship draw?

Star duo Djokovic and Nadal have been given a bye straight through to the semifinals, so their first matches will not be until Friday.

In the first round on Thursday, Tsitsipas will be challenged by Rublev, with the winner going on to play Djokovic.

In the other side of the draw, Khachanov meets Chung for the right to face world number one Nadal.

Final could be Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal

All that means Djokovic could end up taking on Nadal in the final, depending on their respective semifinal results.

That would be a dream meeting for tournament organisers after the two players ended 2019 in the top two positions in the ATP rankings, having shared two Grand Slams each.

Trending: Djokovic is closing fast on Roger's record

A thrilling head-to-head-battle between the two players has seen Djokovic win 28 matches against Nadal, compared to 26 for the Spaniard.

While this will not be an official ATP match, it is a clash fans will relish ahead of a year where the two will be seen as favorites as they compete with Roger Federer and a host of young stars for the top titles.

They played twice in official 2019 matches, Djokovic thumping Nadal in last year’s Australian Open final before losing to the King of Clay in the final of the Rome Masters.

Can Tsitsipas provide a 2020 warning?

Tsitsipas’ involvement is another interesting element after he ended 2019 with a fantastic win at the ATP Finals in London, the biggest triumph of his career.

The Greek is the latest young star to have been heavily tipped to end the big three’s dominance of majors over the course of 2020.

Marcos Baghdatis this week said he felt Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem were the two players who could win multiple Slams once Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are no longer on top.

Next: Novak will surpass 'genius' Federer

Fans will be closely watching how Tsitsipas’ game is looking ahead of the new season, especially if he gets to a match against Djokovic in the last four, with the Australian Open, where he made the semifinals last time, now only a month away.