Chung Hyeon, South Korea's top tennis player, will open his new season at an exhibition tournament in the United Arab Emirates this week.
Chung, world No. 25, will be one of six male players at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship starting on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.
Chung is the highest-ranked South Korean player but will be the lowest-ranked participant in the field, which features Novak Djokovic (No. 1), Rafael Nadal (No. 2), Kevin Anderson (No. 6), Dominic Thiem (No. 8) and Karen Khachanov (No. 11).
The tournament, which began in 2009, is not an official ATP event, but it has always attracted some of the sport's biggest names. Nadal has won it four times, and Djokovic won three straight from 2011-2013.
The top two seeds, Djokovic and Nadal, have earned byes to the semifinals. Chung will face Anderson in the first-round match, with the winner advancing to face Nadal in Friday's semifinals.
Chung lost his first two meetings against Anderson, the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and 2018 Wimbledon.
Chung enjoyed the best season of his career in 2018, which included an appearance in the semifinals at the Australian Open in January. Chung reached a career-high No. 19 in the rankings in May, but he also battled foot blisters all season long. He was forced to miss the June-July grass court season for the second straight year.
Chung has spent most of December training in Thailand. After the Abu Dhabi event, Chung will travel to India for the Dec.31-Jan. 5 Tata Open Maharashtra, one of three tournaments contested in the opening week of the 2019 season.
Then Chung will be off to New Zealand for the ASB Classic, which will be his final tuneup tournament before the Jan. 14-27 Australian Open. (Yonhap)