Rafael Nadal came back to playing tennis in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament, where he played and lost to Andy Murray. The Spaniard's come back on the court was full of great competitive spirit and desire for battle, but ultimately this is just running in ahead of the season on the Australian hard-courts.
After the exhibityons, he revealed he got the COVID-19. A news that makes in danger his partecipation at the Australian Open 2022. Rafa will not play the ATP Cup, but will show up directly in Melbourne. But how was the of him come back on the court? Good, not wonderful, of course, and it couldn't be otherwise.
Basically it was just running in, a good running in, in view of more significant commitments. In general, it is difficult to explain the concept of exhibition to Nadal and Murray. The one in Abu Dhabi, a few weeks after the restart of the ATP Tour, turns out to be a real match.
Back on the field after a stop of almost six months, the very Spanish champion, fundamentally lacks clarity in tactical choices and struggles to find the automatisms, but from a physical point of view he is already in shape.
Rafa pays for an empty pass with the available serve during the first set and does not take advantage of the many (small) chances that Andy makes available. First, of course, to condense the vast majority of errors on the 5-5.
Rafael Nadal's come back: risks and running in
The Briton, who proves to be more solid and serves almost flawlessly overall, fixes the score at 6-4 7-5 and reaches Andrey Rublev, executioner of Denis Shapovalov in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.
Nadal wins eight of the first eight points with the serve available, but gives Murray the chance at 15-30, in the heart of the fifth game after the most tiring exchange of the set. The Spaniard, who fails to recover with the forehand out of the service, sinks a rather trivial backhand at 15-40 and in fact gives the set to the three-time Grand Slam champion.
Obviously called to the comeback, Nadal tries to make small improvements to the tactical plan and above all to remain attached to the score. Needless to say, it shortens the number of prolonged exchanges and pinches the left diagonal with more continuity.
A change of pace at 15-15 (during the eighth game) allows him to face 15-30. Even if at the same time, in the immediately following game, he needs the serve & volley (from 0-30) to get out of trouble. The Spaniard, called to serve to secure the tie break, commits nonsense at 15-15 and above all relies on hawk-eye, with poor results, at 15-30.
The rest is a completely necessary side dish: Murray, who loses the first fifteen, regroups the score with a splendid backhand solution and at the second useful opportunity grabs the success. The first with Nadal since 2016 on the red brick in Madrid.
A good run-in, both for Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, but now the real challenge begins: to be competitive in view of the Australian Open 2022. But if the Scot is sure to play in Melbourne, what will happen for the Spaniard?