Eddie Taylor28 Dec 2016 AT 02:15 PM

Milos Raonic eyes Abu Dhabi glory

The Mubadala World Tennis Championships is back with the biggest names in the sport
Eddie Taylor28 Dec 2016 AT 02:15 PM
Milos Raonic eyes Abu Dhabi glory
© Getty Images
Milos Raonic taking on Novak Djokovic in London

The Mubadala World Tennis Championships has become a New Year tradition in Abu Dhabi and, acting as a timely precursor to the first Grand Slam of the season in Australia, continues to attract the best in the business. Well, that and a first prize of US$250,000.

Among the hopefuls is Milos Raonic, who enjoyed a pretty stellar 2016. The big-serving Canadian climbed to number three in the rankings and appeared in his first Grand Slam final, eventually succumbing at Wimbledon to Andy Murray. The new season, then, offers plenty of hope for silverware.

What is the Mubadala World Tennis Championship to you? Is it an opportunity to get ready ahead of the Australian Open and get back in form after the break?
Exactly. For me, coming to Abu Dhabi to play is a chance to really start my 2017 season strong, hopefully leading into the Australian Open, so I can have some of my greatest success there.

You start in the second round (or the semi-final) by playing the winner of Nadal-Berdych. There aren’t any easy games in this championship, are there? 
No, there aren’t, but I think that’s one of the great things about this tournament. Is it’s an accumulation of some of the best players in the world, and you have to go there in top shape. It’s really a great test to see where you’re at and what are the things that you really need to make progress on leading into the Australian Open.

You ended the season at your all-time ranking high of number three. How do you look back on 2016? Wimbledon, being coached by John McEnroe for a spell, showdowns with Andy Murray... I’m sure it was a year to remember.
For me, for the year 2016, finishing number three was the most important, most significant thing I achieved I think. That and my first slam final at Wimbledon, of course. But, really, I look back to the way I started the year – very strongly – after a rough finish to 2015. That turnaround was very key for me.

You will be 26 when the new season starts. Have you set your 2017 goals? Are you beginning to narrow your focus on the Grand Slams a bit more now? 
I’ve really tried to focus on winning my first Slam, yes, and I’ll be putting everything towards that so I can achieve that specific goal first.

People have been predicting the demise of the “big four” – or at least Nadal and Federer – for some time. Does it feel like this is an opportunity?
I think the opportunity is definitely there for me. And that’s what I’m chasing – it’s what I work hard for each day.

You have to pick a doubles partner from Nadal, Djokovic and Federer for the match of your life. Who do you choose?
I think the one that’s probably the most successful in doubles throughout his career has been Nadal, so I think he’d probably be the one I’d pick to play with.

Mubadala World Tennis Championships
When: December 29-31
Where: International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi
Tickets: ticketmaster.ae