MELBOURNE • World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is struggling to get any match practice before the Australian Open, will play an exhibition event at Melbourne Park in the week leading up to the season-opening Grand Slam, organisers announced yesterday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard has not played since he withdrew from the season-ending World Tour Finals in London in November with a knee injury. He had already pulled out of an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, this week's Brisbane International and another event in Sydney, citing a lack of time to properly prepare.
However, the 16-time Grand Slam winner will be part of the winner-takes-all Tie Break Tens event at Melbourne Park on Jan 10, five days before the 2018 Australian Open, the 50th edition in the Open era.
Tie Break Tens is a rapid-fire tournament of 10-point tie-break games played between eight women and eight men respectively.
The event takes 31/2 hours in total, with the winner taking US$250,000 (S$334,000) in prize-money. The tournament was launched in 2015 in London (for men only) and has been held in Vienna in 2016 and Madrid last year (which included a women's tournament for the first time).
Tennis Australia has been contacted to clarify if a women's tournament will also be held this year.
"Tie Break Tens is a great concept and we will see and play some exciting matches," Nadal said in a statement released by Tennis Australia.
"The field is fantastic and I expect some tough competition which will be great for the Aussie fans."
The eight-man field includes Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Australia's Nick Kyrgios and former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
The other male participants are yet to be announced.
"It really will be an intriguing contest," Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said.
"These guys are all coming in at different stages of their preparation, but once their competitive instincts kick in, which will be almost instant in this format, there will be some absorbing contests.
"Remember, there is not much room for error. You lose the tie-break and you are out."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN