ABU DHABI, January 2, 2016
Rafael Nadal claimed his first title of the season, winning the 8th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday evening in Abu Dhabi. In front of an almost fully packed centre court at the Zayed Sports City complex, the world number 5 from Spain defeated Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-3.
Both players met seven times on the ATP World Tour and the 25-year-old Canadian could only win the last encounter between the two in Indian Wells in March.
Nadal had the better start into the final, gaining his first break point opportunities in the fifth game but Raonic was able to save them both, taking the opening set into the tie-break. Then, the Spaniard continued to dominate most of the rallies and when a crosscourt forehand from Raonic was wide, Nadal clinched the first frame in 54 minutes, winning the breaker 7-2.
In the fourth game of the second set, Raonic missed an overhead shot and also produced a forehand error, which led to the decisive break for Nadal, gaining a 3-1 lead. The world number 5 from Mallorca converted his first match point to seal victory in one hour and 30 minutes.
Nonetheless, the runner-up could find a couple of positives he could take from his debut in Abu Dhabi.
“The tournament was phenomenal and a great set up for 2016. I had three matches against three great players, which gives you a lot to build off, a lot of insight. Hopefully things keep going well through the months of the year and I can play Rafa again in a later stage or bigger tournament,” Raonic said.
“I am doing a lot of things right always incorporating few new things to the game, always looking to improve like working on my game at the net,” the world number 14 seemed to be satisfied with his tennis at the moment and said. “I am in a significantly better shape than I have ever been before.”
During Friday night, Raonic announced that former world number one Carlos Moya will join his coaching team, starting their partnership at the Australian Open.
“It’s going to be a great compliment to my team. I think he can bring a lot of experience and understanding, at the same time working with me hard on the court. Maybe he can give me the kind of calm and peace in moments, where I can’t find it on my own off the court and before important matches,” Raonic told about the new partnership and added that Moya will travel with him most of the bigger tournaments.
Nadal was also happy with his three days in Abu Dhabi.
“It is a great feeling to capture the title here in order to start the new season. I am happy for playing at a high level of tennis. I tried hard every year but this time I had already felt to arrive in good shape and it worked out in the end,” Nadal told after claiming his third Abu Dhabi crown, following his triumphs in 2010 and 2011. “I just played well. That was the key to success today,” he added and wants to look ahead.
“Last year was a tough year for me in terms of mental parts but I was able to fix the problems and I have already started to play better again. I am feeling good now, ready for the new competition and I do not want to talk about 2015 anymore,” Nadal stated and said that the main goal is “staying healthy and being competitive.”
Nadal also thinks that his close friend Carlos Moya can be a help for Raonic. “Carlos is an amazing champion and a great ambassador of our sport. He has the knowledge and for sure he will help Milos in some aspects. I wish both of them all the best,” he told about his mentor and fellow countryman.
With Spanish youngster Pablo Carreno-Busta, Nadal is taking on another compatriot in the first round of the Qatar Exxon Mobil Open.
“Pablo is a good friend of mine, playing with high potential. It is going to be a tough opener in Doha. I am going to arrive there tomorrow, playing a bit in the afternoon and I will start with the doubles competition (with Fernando Verdasco) on Monday.”
Earlier the day, David Ferrer finished third, winning the play-off match against Stan Wawrinka 6-7, 6-4, 10-8. In the encounter with a couple of ups and downs, both players couldn’t serve out to clinch the opening set. Ferrer missed his chance in the ninth game and Wawrinka lost his serve in the 11th game. Consequently, the tie-break had to decide, in which the 33-year-old Spaniard simply produced too many unforced errors. Wawrinka took the set by hitting a hard forehand longline return, winning 7-1. Ferrer found his rhythm in the second set, breaking his opponent’s serve in the sixth game to take the encounter the distance. In the end, the world number 7 took the champions tie-break.
“It was a close match. I played more aggressive than him during the last points and he also did some mistakes,” Ferrer told about the key the success against the Swiss.
“It was a great tournament here, a good preparation and I enjoyed it a lot. I did a good performance and I feel ready for the start of the ATP World Tour season,” the Spaniard added and is going to defend his title in Doha next week.
“I have good memories with the tournament in Qatar. This year, however, will be completely different as it is a new season. I will only focus on my first match,” Ferrer is looking forward to the Qatar Exxon Mobil Open.