ABU DHABI, December 29, 2016
Four of the world’s top tennis players served up a thrilling Day One at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, firing the tournament off to a scorching start. Thousands were entertained on ‘Kids Day’ at The Zayed Sport City’s International Tennis Centre as tournament newcomer David Goffin dispatched French favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while reigning champion Rafael Nadal showed Czech Tomas Berdych he was back.
Crowds were treated to two jaw dropping matches of world class tennis in Abu Dhabi, as the first face-offs of the three day tournament and the new global tennis season got underway. Off-court friends Tsonga and Goffin gave fans in the capital the first service of the tournament, setting it off to a smashing start.
On court for his tournament debut, Goffin made his mark from the first game by breaking Tsonga with ease in a straight sets victory. Tsonga was broken again to take it to 4-1, before he returned the favour by breaking Goffin back in consecutive services to recover 6-6. Goffin found his grove once more and took the set 7-6, before the Belgian went on to take the second set 6-4 by breaking Tsonga’s final service in another close set over the 1hour 35 minute match.
Speaking on his first match win, Goffin commented: “I’m really happy with my performance, but I was much more solid with my serve in the second set. When you haven’t had a match in a long time, sometimes you get so excited to be on the court. It was 4-1 in 20 minutes and I was playing so well. Then Jo came back to take it 4-4, but I started playing more consistent until the end of the match.”
Looking ahead to his semi-final match against Murray, the Belgian No.1 added: “When you play a tournament like this your aim is to be ready and prepare for the season, it’s not just about winning against Andy or Jo. You have to be ready, feel your game and feel comfortable in what you have to do for the season. Tomorrow I will focus on what I have to do and we will see if it is effective against Andy. The main goal will be maintain or improve, and try and enjoy the match.”
The second match came in the form of the World No.9 and No.10 – Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych. Abu Dhabi favourite, Rafa returned with a gigantic roar from the local crowd, and didn’t disappoint. Fans inside the International Tennis Centre were cheering wildly as Nadal marked his territory on the tournament, shutting out Berdych 6-0 in the first set in just 26 minutes. The Czech power hitter found his footing at the start of the second set but it wasn’t enough, as the Spanish sensation showed no signs of giving up his serve or his title, finishing it 6-4.
At his first tournament back and with a thrilling first win from it, Nadal added: “It’s difficult to imagine playing a first set like this after a long time without competing, but it happened and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m excited to be back at the competition and practicing hard every day to improve. I felt that I was quick to save balls, in a great rhythm and created opportunities with my forehand which is one of my main goals at the beginning of this season.
Looking ahead to his semi-final match against World No. 3 Milos Raonic, which will see a repeat of last year’s final, Nadal commented: “He’s improved a lot on the baseline and his service is unbelievable. It’s a match where I will need to play at my best and be very focused in every moment with my serve, and then hopefully I can play a great match.”
The results of today shape an unmissable Day Two at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship with all six world class players in action on the same day in Abu Dhabi. Tsonga and Berdych will battled it out in the fifth/sixth place play-off before Goffin steps on to court with World No.1 Andy Murray for semi-final one at 5pm. The day will close with a flashback to 2015, as we see a replay of last year’s final of Nadal versus Raonic for a place in this year’s New Year’s Eve final. All four semi-final players will treat the crowds once more, playing again on Day Three in either the Final or the third/fourth place play-off.