Refreshed Djokovic can return from long break in style
Thiem could be chief danger to Serb after Nadal withdrawal
Eurosport 2, 1pm Thursday
Last year's winner Rafael Nadal has followed Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic in pulling out of the Mubadala World Championship, and those bookmakers who issued updated outright quotes differed wildly in their assessments.
Novak Djokovic, who was just being shaded for favouritism when Nadal was due to play, was cut to 8-15 by Sky Bet. Yet bet365 were still quoting 13-8 about the former world number one claiming a fourth Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament triumph.
Nadal was spot-on when he remarked recently that the highest standard reached in men's tennis came from Djokovic, who is seeded second in the UAE despite being ranked lower in the ATP chart than Pablo Carreno Busta.
Wawrinka and Raonic had already been replaced by Kevin Anderson and Andrey Rublev, and now Roberto Bautista Agut has come in for Nadal.
Dominic Thiem has taken Nadal's top-seeded berth. The Austrian world number five was lacklustre towards the end of last season but could be a threat if returning to his best.
Three-time Mubadala hero Djokovic, who has dropped to 12th in the ATP pre-season standings, goes into his latest campaign fresh after missing the second half of the 2017 campaign, reportedly due to an elbow injury.
Djokovic starts with a clean slate and a new coach in Radek Stepanek and the Serb, who rattled off three Mubadala titles on the bounce between 2011 and 2013, should have enough to start the new campaign with a trophy.
Rublev was found wanting against Hyeon Chung in the Next Gen Finals title-decider last month and may find it tough against the older players, while Anderson could struggle to find the form that saw him reach the US Open final in September.
N Djokovic to win title
1pt 13-8 bet365
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