Nadal, Wawrinka take the court in Abu Dhabi on Friday

Tennis will waste no time shifting in high gear for the new year. Jan. 1 will see Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka kick off their campaigns at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The prestigious six-man event is an annual preseason showcase featuring the top players in the world. This year’s field also includes David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kevin Anderson, and Milos Raonic.

Nadal and Wawrinka received byes to the semifinals as the top two seeds, while the quarterfinal draw pit Ferrer against Tsonga and Anderson against Raonic. Ferrer trounced Tsonga 6-1, 6-1 on Thursday afternoon to set up an all-Spanish showdown with Nadal on Friday. The 33-year-old needed only 54 minutes to dispose of Tsonga, who dropped serve three times in the opening set and twice in the second. Ferrer took control right from the start and managed to maintain it the whole way thanks in part to a hold from 0-40 down at 2-0 in the second set. The world No. 7 had previously broken for 2-0 even though Tsonga led 40-0 in that game, as well. Ferrer pushed his lead to 6-1, 5-0 before the Frenchman finally got back on the scoreboard with a rare hold.

Ferrer

Nadal is a two-time champion of this lucrative tournament, having triumphed in 2009-10 and 2010-11. The two most recent winners are not in attendance for the 2015-16 installment. Novak Djokovic captured the title three straight years before Andy Murray was the last man standing in 2014-15. No other player has even won the event, as Murray also came out on top at the first-ever Mubadala World Tennis Championship (2008-09).

For Friday’s other semifinal, Wawrinka awaits either Anderson or Raonic.

47 Comments on Nadal, Wawrinka take the court in Abu Dhabi on Friday

  1. Rafa is smacking the ball like there is no tomorrow. He is playing his heart out and looks good.

    The internet is soooo slow.

  2. Rafa is playing the way I was expecting him to play. Excellent intent.

    As committed, he is taking returns much earlier…he is CREAMING his forehand and changing direction more often. Flattening out his inside out forehand pretty well.

    Interestingly, he is much more willing to approach the net. The serve and backhand have also been good. The weight of shots and length has been good from the backhand wing.

    I really like the way he is stepping in and moving toward the ball to hit forehands. He is taking time away from Federer.

  3. He is not willing to sacrifice his baseline positioning and trying not to give short balls. Obviously making some errors but these are positive errors.

    Notice how he is hitting even some neutral forehands DTL rather than CC just to shake up the patterns of play! very refreshing to see. his baseline game had become fairly predictable so this will help.

    Quite visible how he is making determined efforts to keep moving close to the baseline throughout the rallies.

  4. Dont like the way Rafa plays the second set. He’s letting Ferrer controlling the court, he’s reverting back to playing from way behind the baseline doing all the running. They have played each other 30 times yet Rafa is still playing the same way vs Ferrer.

    Ferrer has a better BH than a FH yet Rafa keeps hitting to Ferrer’s BH! It seems that Rafa just cant stick with a successful formula for long during a match, always reverting to old way of playing and then making life difficult for himself.

    • yup, he messed up in the second set but he was back on track right in the third. He is doing a lot for damage with his forehand.

      To be able to see the changes he is making, you really need to be aware of every single pattern of play and the whole range of shots he employs. Because, lots of changes are not THAT obvious but some definitely are.

      Rafa’s doing a lot of things better. You are right he needs to get more consistent in doing what he wants to do. When he gets more success with his winning formulas, they will become natural for him. He needs some time and some good victories.

      • Exactly! When he played so well in the first set, pressing forward and winning points at the net and putting pressure on Ferrer to win it, he should press on even further in the second set and not took his foot off the pedal, knowing full well what Ferrer was capable of. Yet he made the mistake again and again of not sustaining the style of play and allowing Ferrer to fight back by giving Ferrer so much space to work with.

        If he’s expanding energy like this unnecessarily in the main tour, he’s not going to last. He’s moving too slowly to cover his FH corner, a problem he’s having now as he grows older. He was able to deal with this problem when he was younger and quicker, now everyone is aiming his FH corner after pushing him outwide at his BH corner. He gave Ferrer so many chances of attacking his FH by going CC to Ferrer’s stronger wing ie the BH.

        I do feel Rafa is so used to attacking his opponent’s BH that he has forgotten how to change the pattern and attacks the FH when it happens to be his opponent’s weaker wing.

  5. Of course there’s a difference esp in the first set. If you cant see it then I dont know what to say.

    The problem with Rafa is he cant sustain the style of play for two full sets and always reverts back to old way of playing ie playing from further behind the baseline.

        • The problem with Rafa is he cant sustain the style of play for two full sets and always reverts back to old way of playing ie playing from further behind the baseline.

          Plus don’t you need to win 2 sets to win a match? 3 in a Slam too.

          • What are you talking about?? If you dont understand what I was referring to, please dont interrupt and ask me some insulting questions.

  6. Ferrer is annoyingly loud during the points…he gets on my nerves…Rafa is playing well…I think he lost focus and Ferry took advantage of it…Rafa is way better than last year: his shots are longer, going to the net quite often, moving well…good improvement which I hope to continue…

  7. Where are nadline’s observations?
    From the posts here, looks like Rafa is on his way back! Vamos Rafa!!!

  8. I saw highlights and looks like Rafa is getting back. Rafa’s cut short his service rituals? At least the highlights did not show any. If true, a big source of distraction for him is gone and so when he gets into the zone in a match, he can stay there. Hopefully he gets into the zone!!!
    Waiting for nadline’s report.

  9. I did not mean the service rituals were a distraction. They might in fact have been helping to calm him. But the constant interruptions and warnings because he was taking too much time were a distraction.

  10. I didn’t even know this match was on today. I was checking the tennis channel and they were showing replays of slam finals from 2015. I will have to see if they are showing it on a delayed basis or what. I was really anxious to see how Rafa looked in his first match of the new year.

    From what I am reading here of the comments, it seems that there were some good things and some not so good things. A mixed bag. But I really want to get a look at him for myself.

    It’s great to read the comments from vamosrafa and lucky. I especially appreciate their thoughts.

  11. On VB I just checked out video highlights of Rafa’s match. They also have video of the whole match, which I am going to check out.

    The tennis channel will be showing the final tomorrow at 10:00 am my time. I will be watching to cheer on Rafa!

  12. Ricky could you email nadline and tell her we (if only I am waiting consider it a royal we) are waiting all agog for her report. I hope she is not in a swoon because Rafa talked to her or looked at her or something!

  13. Mary, I upgraded my windows to Windows 10 and I am having problems uploading pictures on it . ….grrrrrrrrrr! I have sent Ricky some pictures on Twitter . The other thing is postimg.com is banned in the UAE so I can’t post any directly onto Tenngrand.

    Rafa was sensational against Ferrer yesterday. I was sitting right behind his seat and as soon as the ball boys came out for the start of the match the crowd went wild ……….well ‘mental’ in some people’s language ? and crowded the area in front of us right where the players entered the court so I got Security to move them because I didn’t buy a ticket to watch their backs ?

    At the press conference someone asked him your question, Mary, about his problem against Fed and Djoker and he didn’t like that question at all. He said he has no problem with them. Someone from TW wanted me to ask him about his new racquet. He said he has been using it since the IPTL and it’s great.

    I didn’t go to the Stan/Raonic presser because it finished late and getting a taxi from the sports complex is a bun fight.

    Rafa was sensational against Feru.

  14. Thanks nadline. I am thrilled to hear this! One question for you. Has he stopped his pre- service rituals?

  15. He has cut down on them a lot there was not that many shirts tugging and pulling the shirt on the shoulders or fixing his hair. He seems to be feeling the ball and looks determined to play a high quality games.
    .

  16. “If you are Nadal, it must be insulting at some level to be questioned about it. The first year in 11 you do not win a grand slam title and boom, people are wondering whether you are finished.

    It might explain the occasional tetchiness of his responses to such questions (he tends to see the worst in all questions, even via email). The day before his semi-final win over David Ferrer at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships (MWTC), he was asked about his expectations for the year ahead, and whether he needed to make a big comeback”

    http://www.thenational.ae/sport/tennis/rafael-nadal-out-to-end-doubts-over-future-displays-signs-of-2016-gameplan-in-abu-dhabi

    I was right, Rafa doesn’t like being asked question like this. Read the whole article

  17. Saw the highlights. Happy with what I saw. Yes second set giving up 2 breaks back was a bit of a concern..but it was first match of the year. It will get better with time.

    • I agree after seeing the highlights. I am not too concerned with Rafa giving up the two breaks in the second set. I also thought that Ferrer played better in that second set. But Rafa restored order in the third set.

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