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Rafael Nadal reigns at Abu Dhabi Mubadala World Tennis Championships

posted on 03/01/2016: 1554 views

A revivified Rafael Nadal looked to the future with optimism and emphatically consigned his 2015 annus horribilis to history after winning his third Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Nadal was in defiant mood after beating Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 at the season-opening annual exhibition at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City, insisting he did "not want to live in the past”.

After slumping to his lowest world ranking (10) since April 2005 last June following poor form and a self-confessed loss of self-belief, an end-of-year resurgence saw Nadal climb to five.

The 29-year-old, who failed to win a grand slam for the first time since 2004 to add to his tally of 14, said his revival owed much to having "fixed my mental problems”.

When asked by Gulf News how he had achieved this and if had enlisted the help of a sports psychologist, Nadal issued a withering look and said: "I talked about that during the whole year and that's already done. We don't live in the past.

"At the same time, I am not talking about the titles I won in 2013 or 2010. I don't want to talk about 2015 anymore.

"We're in 2016. I want to talk about today and what's going on tomorrow.” Does he feel back to his imperious best?

"We'll see. I am playing well,” added Nadal, who said the eighth Mubadala annual exhibition event was "a great way to start the new season”. "I want to be better than what I was two months ago, three months ago, five months ago and I want to improve my level all the time.”

Raonic exudes optimism

Despite his defeat, Raonic was also keen to take the positives out of his first appearance at the Abu Dhabi showcase and look ahead to the coming year with optimism.

Raonic, who defeated fellow debutant Kevin Anderson on the first day of the event on Thursday and then shocked the reigning French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the semi-final a day later, said: "I had three great matches against three great players, which was phenomenal.”

The Canadian world number 14 added that he was "happy with my health and fitness” after being beset by back problems. He is also delighted to be working with new coach Carlos Moya, who won the French Open in 1998, claiming that the Spaniard's experience can help him perform better at the grand slams.

There are few more esteemed voices in tennis than Roger Federer and the Swiss maestro has suggested the 25-year-old is among a handful of emerging players who can threaten the game's elite.

This was certainly borne out in yesterday's showdown by the 6ft 5ins Canadian, who fired down nine aces and five in the first three games as he stood toe to toe with his illustrious rival in the 54-minute first set.

But maintaining your consistency for a whole match against the irrepressible Nadal in his pomp is one of the hardest tasks in tennis and Raonic finally wilted under the Spaniard's onslaught to lose the resultant tie-break 2-7.

Raonic came under incessant pressure from Nadal on his serve and this told when the Spaniard broke the Canadian to lead 3-1 in the second set after successfully converting his fourth break point of the game.

As a ruthless a frontrunner tennis has ever seen, Nadal duly clinched the set 6-3 to complete victory in an hour and 30 minutes.

Nadal's triumph equalled the three Mubadala titles of the world number one, Novak Djokovic, while there was further joy for Spain earlier in the day when David Ferrer won the third-place play-off with a 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 10-8 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka. – Gulf News -


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