Draws set for Abu Dhabi exhibition

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be the top seeds at the Abu Dhabi exhibition that unofficially kicks off the 2019 season Dec. 27-29.

In the six-man exhibition, the winner between Kevin Anderson and Hyeon Chung will play Nadal. The winner of the the match between Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov will play Djokovic.

There will be matches for third and fifth places as well as the final.

In the meantime, Venus Williams is still set for 5 p.m. on the last day, Dec. 29, just before the men’s final.

But her opponent remains unknown. It’s a bit … strange.

Arvidsson named Båstad TD

Former world No. 29 Sofia Arvidsson retired in 2015 at age 31.

Now, the hard-hitting righthander has a new gig.

She was announced as tournament director for the new WTA 125K event in Båstad, Sweden during the second week of Wimbledon. 

It’s rather a strange turn of events. The WTA had an International-level event in Båstad from 2009-17, a continuation of the old Stockholm tourney.

But for 2018, its license was sold to the Russian Federation for its new clay-court event in Moscow.

In the meantime, there’s zero mention of the Båstad tournament on the 2019 schedule.

Another week means another TV “adieu”

After the ATP Tour Finals in London, the longtime broadcast crew from Sky Sports said a somber “Cheerio”.

After Sunday’s Davis Cup final, another tight-knit bunch said “Adieu.”

BeIN France, which held the mens’ ATP rights in France for five years, has ceded to Eurosport for 2019-23.

In the U.S., the WTA goes to from beIN to the Tennis Channel next season.

beIN France still has the WTA, Wimbledon – and Davis Cup. But men’ tennis is the thing in France. But the team gets a bye to the November finals, so they won’t see the boys much.

First ITF title for refugee Olynykova

Remember Oleksandra Oliynykova, the young Ukrainian who fled to Croatia with her family as political refugees? After his business went bankrupt, her father set up a website, to crowdfund her career.

Months later, the site went inactive. There was a lot of trolling.

Motivated by the haters, Oliynynova won her first career ITF title last week in Greece.

She has picked up three sponsors, too.

Now 17, her big challenge will be overcoming the circuit changes.

Oliynykova’s hard-earned WTA ranking of No. 848 will be totally wiped out with the new rules, which discard results at the $15,000 level.

Cibulkova plays herself in Li Na movie

Fresh from a vacation in the Maldives, Dominika Cibulkova headed to Wuhan, China to make her acting debut.

The Slovak is playing herself as the Wuhan center court morphs into Rod Laver Arena for the long-awaited Li Na biopic.

Li defeated Cibulkova in the 2014 Australian Open final.

The detail is pretty good – at least with the outfits (see a comparison to the real thing here). And the knee tape.

The rackets are on brand, if not model.

Li doesn’t play herself. But what a great idea to use the real players as action stunt doubles

Reilly Opelka leaps into top 100

Reilly Opelka was one of the players trying to beat out Jack Sock in the race for the USTA’s Australian Open wild card.

He didn’t win that race. He did much better.

The 6-foot-11, 21-year-old won back-to-back Challengers in Knoxville and Champaign to earn a trip to Melbourne on his own merit.

He broke into the top 100 at No. 98.

The 2015 junior Wimbledon champion’s progress was slowed by injuries and a bout with mononucleosis.

It will be his third trip to Melbourne. In 2017, Opelka qualified and took David Goffin to five sets in the first round.

Karlovic breaks back into the top 100

At 39, Ivo Karlovic wasn’t too proud to play down. And it paid off.

Through 15 years at Grand Slams, Karlovic had played the qualifying just once – at the 2013 US Open – until this year.

Losing in the second round in New York to No. 345 Collin Altamirano this year was motivation enough to avoid it.

Karlovic played five fall Challengers and raised his ranking from No. 137 to No. 99 Monday.

Barring an unusually large number of special rankings, that ranking should be good enough to get straight into the 2019 Australian Open, which he’ll play for the 16th straight year.

Isner devastated at loss of friend

American John Isner is devastated at the loss of a friend who helped him get to the top.

Former strength and conditioning coach Kyle Morgan, was found dead Monday.

“Despite our crazy differences, we forged an inseparable bond. You were the most knowledgeable strength coach ever and the years we spent in the gym together allowed me to compete at the highest level,” Isner wrote on Instagram.

Morgan, just 35, struggled desperately with a opioid addiction that began because of chronic old football injuries.

His brother Jimmy posted on Facebook that he took his own life.

Goran Djokovic new Sofia TD

With Paul McNamee departing after two years, the Sofia Open went looking for a new tournament director.

And the winner is … Goran Djokovic.

“Uncle” Goran, whose nephew you might have heard of, was the tournament director of the now-defunct Serbia Open.

That event. owned by the Djokovic family, took place from 2009-2012.

Djokovic has been vice-president of the Serbian Tennis Federation since 2015.

And he also is Honorary Consul of the Republic of Serbia for Monaco.

He’s been spotted in London at the Tour Finals this week – not just to watch his nephew, but also for ATP meetings.

Schuettler jumps ship for the WTA

It’s not that often that a coach successfully leaves the ATP side for the WTA.

Darren Cahill comes to mind.

But former top-5 player Rainer Schuettler has done just that.

The 42-year-old German worked with Canadian Vasek Pospisil in 2018. But after the best female player in his country, Angelique Kerber, came calling, he has made the leap.

(He really doesn’t know what he’s in for, does he?)

Pospisil worked both with Schuettler and Schuettler’s former coach Dirk Hordorff, who collaborate as a team

At last word, Hordorff is still on board with Pospisil for 2019.