WASHINGTON, December 20, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
Although Rafael Nadal‘s comeback after a four-month injury layoff at last weekend’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi ended in a pair of defeats to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov, the 35-year-old Spaniard, who has struggled with a lingering foot problem, considered his return to competitive tennis be a positive one.
“I was able to compete in both matches and even had my chances,” the five-time Mubadala champion Nadal said during his press conference Saturday. “So, if we put that in perspective it’s a very positive thing.”
Nadal, whose last Mubadala title came in 2019, began with a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Murray during Friday’s semifinal round. On Saturday, he lost to Shapovalov 6-7 (4), 6-3, 10-6 in the third-place match.
So good to have you back @RafaelNadal.
— Mubadala World Tennis Championship (@MubadalaWTC) December 18, 2021
Now, with the start of the Australian Open just four weeks away, Nadal said at the conclusion of his week in the Emirates that he will meet with his team to decide whether he will make the trip to Melbourne. The 20-time major champion realizes he has a long road ahead of him after missing this year’s Wimbledon and US Open tournaments. Before Abu Dhabi, his last match came in August, when he lost to Lloyd Harris in the third round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Afterward, Nadal shut down the rest of his 2021 season.
“I need to speak with my team,” Nadal said. “Being 100 percent honest, I can’t guarantee 100 percent.”
Nadal added: “The idea is to go there and try my best there in Australia, that’s the goal and that’s my idea. But we need to come back, see how the body feels after these couple of days, then that’ll be the time to make decisions. I go day by day at this moment of my career and after all the things that I went through, I need to think very well of every movement.”
A postscript: On Monday, Nadal announced via social media that he tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Spain.
In his post, Nadal wrote that he’s enduring “unpleasant moments” but hopes to improve “little by little.” He noted he is in isolation at home and everyone who has been in contact with him was informed of his positive result.
“As a consequence, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyze my options depending on my progress,” he said.
Hola a todos. Quería anunciaros que en mi regreso a casa tras disputar el torneo de Abu Dhabi, he dado positivo por COVID en la prueba PCR que se me ha realizado al llegar a España.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) December 20, 2021
Murray upbeat after Mubadala
Meanwhile, runner up Murray was upbeat in his remarks following Saturday’s 6-4, 7-6 (2) title match loss to World No. 5 Andrey Rublev. Earlier, he defeated No. 25 Dan Evans and backed it up with an impressive showing against Nadal. “I played three really good matches,” the 34-year-old Briton said, “but Andrey played really well. He has a very good game, but I’ll take the positives. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my week.
— LTA (@the_LTA) December 18, 2021
“I’m looking forward. I’m healthy. I just need to find a way of turning things my way in matches against the biggest players and having good runs at the biggest tournaments. …
“I feel like now I’m a lot clearer in my mind about how I’m going to play and the way I’m going to go about my matches in the next year.
“Decision-making comes from having a clear mind and clarity about the way you want to play and right now I’m quite sure on that and I believe that will help me in the important moments.”
Van Uytvanck wins Open BLS de Limoges
Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium won the final European WTA 125 title of the year at the Open BLS de Limoges in Limoges, France, on Sunday afternoon. The 68th-ranked van Uytvanck defeated No. 119 Ana Bogdan of Romania, 6-2, 7-5, in one hour and 25 minutes.
Van Uytvanck won 73 percent (30 of 54) of her first-serve points, was broken just once and converted five of 13 break-point chances in her victory over Bogdan. She outpointed her opponent 69-51.
— Open BLS de Limoges (@OpenWTALimoges) December 19, 2021
The 27-year-old No. 2 seed from Vilvoorde, Belgium, did not lose a set in her five match victories at Limoges on an indoor hard-court surface. She defeated Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia, last week’s titlist at the WTA 125 Open Angers Arena Loire; Tatjana Maria of Germany, No. 7 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France and No. 6 seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia en route to winning her sixth career title and fifth indoors.
Earlier this season, van Uytvank won the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, her fifth WTA Tour title. She also won an ITF W100 on grass at Nottingham. Van Uytvanck finished her 2021 season with a 27-18 win-loss record, which included 13-3 on indoor hard courts.
— FlashFM Limoges 89.9 (@FlashFM_Limoges) December 19, 2021
“We’ve been working on my aggressive style of play this off-season,” van Uytvanck said, quoted by the WTA Tour website. “Coming a lot to net, trying to serve well and take advantage from the return. It’s nice to see it working immediately. I thought it would take some weeks to get into my game. We found a way how I should play and I hope I can continue this level.”
• In the doubles final, No. 1 seeds Zvonareva and Monica Niculescu of Romania won their first title together as a team without dropping a set. They defeated France’s Estelle Cascino and Jessika Ponchet, 6-4, 6-4, in the title match.
Thiem pulls out of ATP Cup and Sydney
World No. 15 Dominic Thiem of Austria, who has been idle from the ATP Tour since last June with an injured wrist suffered at the Mallorca Championships, announced Sunday via social media that he has pulled out of the ATP Cup and the ATP 250 Sydney Tennis Classic after missing a week of practice due to a non-Covid-19-related illness.
Thiem, who had been training in Dubai, withdrew from last week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi after becoming ill. He said he’s returning home to Austria instead of flying directly to Australia with the goal of being able to still compete in the Australian Open in Melbourne next month.
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) December 19, 2021
Brady latest Australian Open withdrawal
Jennifer Brady of the United States is the latest withdrawal from next month’s Australian Open and two warmup tournaments because of a left foot injury. The 25th-ranked American has not competed since she was forced to retire from her second-round match at the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio in August. Brady, 26, was an Australian Open finalist last February.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) December 18, 2021
On Thursday, World No. 4 Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic revealed via social media that she had withdrawn from the Australian Summer Swing tournaments after injuring her hand in practice.
“Unfortunately, I hurt my right hand in practice yesterday and I won’t be able to play in Adelaide, Sydney and Australian Open this year,” Pliskova said in a statement. “I am sad not being able to start my season in Australia and I will miss my Australian fans very much.”
Some days are worse than others. Unfortunately I will be out for a while and will not compete at my favorite tournaments in Australia 😔 But time and believe can heal everything.
Bohužel i takové dny někdy jsou. Na chvíli bez tenisu a bez Austrálie, ale čas a vůle vše spraví ♥️💪 pic.twitter.com/Eqe5v8P5tV
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) December 16, 2021
Others who are expected to miss the Australian Open include Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Bianca Andreescu, who is addressing mental health concerns and taking a break from tennis.
Djokovic honored with his own postage stamp in Serbia
On Friday, Novak Djokovic revealed he is receiving his very own Serbian stamp. Indeed, the Serbian National Postal Service is issuing a set of stamps to honor one of Serbia’s most accomplished and recognizable sportspersons. It is the first time the Serbian National Postal Service has put an athlete on a stamp. They are also partnering with Djokovic’s foundation in its goal of helping Serbian children to attend preschool.
An honor to receive my very own Serbian stamp. Thank you to my generous country for this rare gift! I’m humbled!! Excited to share we’ll partner with the Serbian National Postal Service on @novakfoundation projects for every child to have the opportunity to attend preschool 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/Ww8Zma95NU
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) December 17, 2021
Happy 50th Birthday Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1️⃣4️⃣ major titles
World No. 1️⃣ in singles & doubles
4️⃣ Olympic medals
5️⃣ @BJKCup titles
The first Spanish woman inducted into the ITHF 🙌 🇪🇸
Happy 50th Birthday, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario! 🥳
— Tennis Hall of Fame (@TennisHalloFame) December 18, 2021
By the numbers
This season, there were 17 first-time singles winners on the WTA Tour. It began with Clara Tauson in Lyon in March and concluded with Ann Li at Tenerife in October.
Seventeen players won their maiden WTA singles titles in 2021 🏆
— wta (@WTA) December 15, 2021
• Russia’s Karen Khachanov has joined Cadillac as a brand ambassador. “As a brand of exquisite quality and integrity, as well as striving to exceed expectations. My choice is the new Cadillac Escalade, inspiring with its scale and high-tech equipment.”
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• An Instagram post on Sunday revealed that Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan is now part of Team KSwiss.
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