Rafael Nadal marked his territory on the Mubadala World Tennis Championship today, after retaining the title for the second consecutive year and his fourth win overall at the tournament in its nine year history. The Spaniard played World No.11 David Goffin for the first time in an electrifying display of tennis that showed the Abu Dhabi crowds that he was back.
Thousands of fans descended on the International Tennis Centre in The Zayed Sports City over the three day tournament, witnessing a total of seven magnificent matches featuring six of the world’s best known tennis players. Due to its success, organisers during the trophy ceremony revealed that the tournament will return 28-30 December 2017 for the 10th anniversary edition, with tickets going on sale soon.
Rafael Nadal played all three days of the tournament for the first time, and put on a sensational show every day in the capital by taking wins from Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and David Goffin. The final was full of firsts, as Belgian David Goffin had never played in the tournament before and equally had never played Nadal in a competitive match either. Goffin played all three days of the tournament too, reaching the final with big wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and a jaw-dropping result over World No.1 Andy Murray.
The final was everything fans had hoped it would be and more. Nadal brought his Spanish flavour to the game, while Goffin continued to wow the crowds with his quick reactions and momentum around the court. Nadal made the only break late on in the first set to win it 6-4, after even play from both finalists. The Belgian recovered well at the start of the second set, breaking Nadal’s momentum and serve to lead 2-1. Rafael returned the favour, stealing Goffin’s serve to tie it back up to 3-3. The set went to a tie-break and both players showed signs of genius in the super set which lasted a lengthy 1 hour 14 minutes. But it was Nadal’s persistence and knowledge of the court that won out in the end to take the glassware 7-5.
Four-time Mubadala World Tennis Champion, Rafael Nadal spoke to the crowd after his win: “When you have success this many times here, it’s because of something special. You like the court, you like the place and you especially like the crowd – I’m very happy here. It’s a great atmosphere and I feel the love of the people. Many thanks to everybody who makes this great event possible each year. Next year is the tenth edition which shows it is special.”
Speaking about his return, he added: “I’m very happy to be back in competition after several months out – I had some problems with my wrist. But it’s a New Year and I’m very excited. These three days have been great for me – to be back and playing at this level. I’m very happy and I wish everybody a Happy New Year!”
Goffin built quite the following among the crowd as the days went on, with cheers of excitement and encouragement clearly heard around the International Tennis Centre. On his impressive performance throughout the tournament, Goffin commented: “I’ve really enjoyed being here in Abu Dhabi. I would like to thank everybody who organised this fantastic event. I’ve spent three wonderful days here and I will come back if I can – of course, no doubt.”
Before the final World No.1 Andy Murray, who will soon become Sir Andy Murray after being named in the New Year’s Honours List to receive a knighthood, fought World No. 3 Milos Raonic for third place. Murray broke Raonic early in the first set, losing his serve once to take it 6-3 in 34 minutes. Raonic picked up some momentum in the second set and, just when it looked as though Murray would take the set, the Canadian made a comeback to push it to a tie-break. Murray battled back to take the tie-break 8-6 and second set on a memorable day for the future Sir.
Murray spoke about his performance today, saying: “It was quite tricky with the shadows returning Milos’ serve, but I did a pretty good job of that. I was timing the ball quite well, but there’s a few things I can still do better. It was good for me to get two good matches in with two top players in Goffin and Raonic – it’s been a productive couple of days.”
Commenting on his impending knighthood, the future Sir said: “It’s a big honour to be asked. Great recognition of my results over the last few years and a great to start 2017. But I’m quite happy being known as Andy – that’s fine by me.”
Speaking about this performance at the tournament, Raonic shared: “I did a lot of things that are positive takeaways, and I think that’s what I have to focus on most going into the next few weeks. I got myself into trouble with things I’m trying to incorporate into my game. In tournaments you don’t always play two of the best returners in the game [Nadal and Murray], so it’s a different scenario. I think I’m missing a little bit of mental strength – I had break points I should have executed. I need to take a step forward mentally, as physically I think I am doing a lot of things well.”
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship concluded its ninth edition on December 31, 2016. Well established as an annual season-opener, the tournament features six of the world’s best players who battle it out at the International Tennis Centre at The Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi for the prestigious Championship title – and a winner takes-all prize of $250,000 – over three action packed days. From the very first ball hit on centre court, spectators are treated to the equivalent of a Grand Slam quarter final with the world’s best looking to get their tennis season off to the strongest possible start in Abu Dhabi.