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Novak Djokovic’s first match back will be against Roberto Bautista Agut in Abu Dhabi

Roberto Bautista Agut beat Andrey Rublev to set up a semi-final against Novak Djokovic in Abu Dhabi.

Reem Abulleil 2017/12/28

Novak Djokovic’s first match back following his six-month injury hiatus will be against familiar foe Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Djokovic has not played since Wimbledon, due to an elbow injury, but told Sport360 that he is pain-free and ready to get back to the match court.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion has had difficult clashes with Bautista Agut in the past, including two four-setters at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open – both of which Djokovic won.

The Spaniard trails Djokovic 1-6 head-to-head but beat the ex-world No. 1 last year in Shanghai.

“It’s going to be great to have Novak on court again, for everybody, for all of us. I’m happy to play against him again. I played some tough matches against him and I always enjoy playing against Novak,” said Bautista Agut.

On Thursday in the UAE capital, the 20th-ranked Bautista Agut defeated Rublev 7-5, 6-2 to advance to Friday’s semi-finals.

“I played great. I think it was a good first match of the season. I felt great on the court, the surface feels great for my game. It was a good start for me,” said the Spaniard, who had a solid day on the fast surface in Abu Dhabi.

Earlier on centre court, Kevin Anderson defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a rematch of their US Open semi-final from last September.

Anderson takes on world No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who has been in fierce form on the practice courts at Zayed Sports City over the past two days.

The 14th-ranked Anderson enjoys a dominant 6-0 head-to-head record against Thiem, who admitted he “completely” lost his confidence at the end of 2017 but believes he has restored his self-belief ahead of the new season.

“It’s just one of those things. Quite a few times I’ve obviously had good success with him in the past. But they were very close matches,” Anderson said of his strong record against the Austrian.

“Saved match points in one of them. In Washington this year he was up a break twice in the third set and managed to fight my way through there. The record would show that I haven’t lost to him but one or two points it could have been not quite as one-sided as it is. He’s one of the best players in the world, he’s proved himself with that. He had a great year this year, especially in the clay-court season.

“He’s a great competitor, he’s a free swinger, and when he times the ball well, he hits the ball just as hard as anybody, especially on these courts, they are very quick, so that would be great for him. It’s going to be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it.”

FRIDAY SCHEDULE

14:30 Fifth-place play-off Pablo Carreno Busta v Andrey Rublev

17:00 Semi-final 1 Dominic Thiem v Kevin Anderson

19:00 Semi-final 2 Novak Djokovic v Roberto Bautista Agut

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