ABU DHABI, December 27, 2018
Before the stars of the 2018 Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) hit the court at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and the Williams Sisters, the tournament’s “fab-four” met the media on Thursday afternoon.
Four-time MWTC champion Rafael Nadal will return to action for the first time since the US-Open. “I am happy to be back, starting into a new season,” said the 32-year-old Spaniard. “Of course I have to be careful with the body, going only step by step. I will try to be positive with every improvement. The second part of last year was tough in terms of injuries. That’s part of my tennis career but I still have time to be at 100 per cent in Melbourne. It’s good to have some matches before the Australian Open. I am confident to arrive there in the right shape.”
Nadal has experience in coming back to the Tour after injuries multiple times. “You get tired of having pain and of being injured but in the end the positive things dominate. You still wake up with the passion for the game. That helps me to come back to the level I want to be. Hopefully it will work out this time again.”
Djokovic grateful for successful past season
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is also looking forward to the start of the new season. “The last 12 months were very exciting. I was still carrying the elbow injury and had to undergo surgery. When I returned from that I was ranked World No. 22 and four of five months later I was World No. 1. This was quite a rollercoaster ride for me.
“I am very grateful for this season, as it taught me a lot about me as a tennis player. I really had to understand my game in every aspect in order to get there, where I am at the moment. I hope that I can carry the confidence from the last six months into the 2019 season.
“I had a couple of weeks off and I was looking forward to that after a long and successful season. I spent a lot of time with the family, just trying to be as quiet as possible. Once you start a new season you are getting back to the machine.”
At this stage of his career, what is Djokovic’s biggest motivation? “It’s not for the sake of the success only. Tennis is more like a platform now for the values I want to share with the young generation. There is not other place than a tennis court, which can trigger me in a positive as well as negative way. It is a place where I can grow. My character is kind of on the line. I treat that as my personal school of life. I am grateful to play that sport.”
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Although Djokovic enjoyed a fantastic season, the Serbian lost his last three matches to players, who were aged 22 or under. “That’s good,” Djokovic laughed. “Zverev is obviously the No. 1 and leader of the next generation, winning in London and ATP Masters 1000 events. But there are also other guys like Thiem, Khachanov, Tsitsipas and Coric who are really showing that they are able to challenge players for the top titles of our sport. I am expecting them to do well this season. How well, we will see. It’s not the first time that the young players are expected to challenge all of us for the top positions. So far the top three have still been able to keep the top positions for many years. However, with the challenges of the younger players the face of tennis is changing and that is good.”