Five-star Nadal reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi

By Eudore R. Chand

Rafel Nadal Mubadala champ

ABU DHABI 22December 2019: Rafael Nadal marked his 10th Mubadala World Tennis Championship anniversary by picking up a record fifth Abu Dhabi title with victory over the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas in a scintillating final at a sold-out Abu Dhabi International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City on Saturday night.

Three days of high-intensity on-court action and the best entertainment in the Tennis Village, culminated in a gripping final contest between the World No. 1 and World No. 6 in front of a capacity crowd, with more than 15,000 spectators attending across the three days.

Having mounted a thrilling comeback to defeat World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in Friday’s semi-final, 2019 ATP Finals winner Tsitsipas was in confident mood heading into the championship decider against four-time champion Nadal and was cheered on by a large contingent of flag-waving Greek fans in the stadium court.

However, Nadal showed why he is world No. 1 with another all-action display to delight his UAE fans. He saved a third break point in game six of the opening set with an overhead backhand volley, then smashed a forehand down the line to close out his next service game to love and square the match at 4-4, before breaking his opponent to take a 5-4 lead. Tsitsipas hit back straight away, breaking Nadal in game 10 and the set headed into a tiebreak. Tsitsipas took the game to Nadal during the decider, taking out the tiebreak 7-3 to secure the opening set.

Chasing a first Abu Dhabi title since 2016, Nadal held serve in the opening game of the second set and more world-class play followed. The Spaniard saved two break points in game nine and, roared on by his vociferous supporters, he then broke Tsitsipas’ resolve in game 12 to take the second set 7-5.

Broke Serve

Nadal broke serve in game six of the deciding set, only for Tsitsipas to fight back with a break in game seven. Both players then held their serves to take the match into a championship deciding tiebreak and the Spaniard used all his experience to take the decider 7-3 and seal an epic 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 victory after more than three hours on court.

Following his victory, Nadal was presented with the 2019 Mubadala World Tennis Championship trophy by HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Sports Council. Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Tennis Federation awarded the runners-up trophy to Tsitsipas, in the presence of Humaid Al Shimmari, Deputy CEO and Chief Corporate and Human Capital Officer, Mubadala; Nabih Bouery, Vice President, Flash Entertainment and Ashwaq Abdulla, the 2019 trophy designer who is the first Emirati female to create the trophy for this championship.

After setting a new record in Abu Dhabi, Nadal, said: “It’s a real pleasure to come here and to win a fifth title means a lot to me. I had a great match yesterday and a great match today. Hopefully I can stay healthy and hopefully I will be back next year. The crowds have been amazing and it is a real pleasure to play in front of you all.”

Enjoyed Abu Dhabi

Runner-up Tsitsipas, said: “I gave it my all out there and I liked your support. I’ve really enjoyed it in Abu Dhabi, the people have been very nice. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to witness that. I think I’ve made 8,000 new friends today!”

The final match was a fitting conclusion to the championship, which in just over a decade has established and cemented a reputation as the people’s favourite Abu Dhabi event.

“After three days of dramatic action on court and family entertainment in the tennis village, the 12th Mubadala World Tennis Championship has reaffirmed its status as a world-class event and underlined Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a truly world-class sporting destination,” said John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment.

“Our fans were entertained, and our players were delighted by the world-renowned hospitality shown to them across Abu Dhabi. Congratulations to our Champion, Rafael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova for her victory on Thursday. We look forward to welcoming the world’s best players back for another momentous edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in 2020.”

Djokovic Third

Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic claimed victory over Russian opponent Karen Khachanov in the third-place play-off, securing a 7-5, 6-3 win in 1 hr and 6 mins. The World No. 2 and four-time champion took charge of the match from the outset and enjoyed his time on court, playing to the crowd at the end of the match with a contest challenging sections to cheer loudest.

“Abu Dhabi is a really impressive place and this tournament is one of the rare tournaments that consistently offers a very high-class field. It’s something a tradition for me to come here and it has been great to get some quality match time under my belt,” said Djokovic.

Khachanov meanwhile, hailed the championship after claiming fourth place in his second Mubadala World Tennis Championship appearance.

“It’s a well-organised event, you have everything you need, great practice facilities. You can come a little earlier with the family and enjoy a little, the conditions are similar to what we will have in Australia. When it’s a strong field like this year then it’s great for anybody to play these types of matches,” said Khachanov.