THE new ATP season is set to start in Doha on January 2, but neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal would be seen in action at the hard-courts of Khalifa International Complex for the first time since 2013.
The last time Federer played at the Qatar Exxon Mobil Open was in 2012 when he pulled out of his semifinal against eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga because of a back injury. Since then, the Swiss legend has preferred to open the season in Australia.
Federer missed the second half of 2016 due to injury and will make his much-awaited return to competitive action at the Mixed Team event — Hopman Cup — in Perth, Australia, starting on January 1.
Nadal, who is a regular and crowd favourite in Doha, thanks to the sizeable Spanish expatriate population, lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2016 final.
From 2009, the Mallorcan has always preferred to start the season in Doha. In 2013, he had pulled out at the last minute after failing to recover from an injury.
But this time, the 30-year-old had opted for the Brisbane International, one of the three ATP season openers along with Doha and Chennai, in the lead-up to Australian Open.
“We’re going to miss them for sure. It’s their decision and we respect it. But we still have world’s top two players coming for our landmark 25th edition. We’re about to experience another exciting week of top-level tennis,” said Qatar Tennis Federation Assistant General Secretary Tariq Zainal Al Darwish.