Seeking the sixth Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown in Abu Dhabi, the 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal lost both matches on his comeback trail. Hoping for a title defense after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in that epic title clash two years ago, the Spaniard lost to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov in his first encounters since early August.
After falling to Murray in straight sets on Friday, Rafa experienced a 6-7, 6-3, 10-6 defeat to Denis Shapovalov in a battle for the third place to leave the event empty-handed and get back to the practice court. Nadal took the opener before losing ground in set number two, struggling with his timing and spraying too many errors.
Shapovalov stayed focused after a tight opening set and had the edge in the second and the match tie break to defeat a great rival.
Rafael Nadal lost to Denis Shapovalov in three sets in Abu Dhabi.
Nadal got broken in the opening game after hitting a forced error and fell 2-0 down after Shapovalov's service winner.
In the third game, Rafa saved a break point with a volley winner at the net and got his name on the scoreboard with a booming serve. The Canadian secured the fourth game with a service winner before closing the sixth with an ace down the T line for 4-2.
Doing everything right so far, Shapovalov closed the eighth game with another ace and served for the set at 5-4. Suddenly, Rafa broke back in the last moment when his rival sent a forehand long, leveling the score at 5-5 and gathering a boost.
Nadal built a 6-3 lead in the tie break and claimed it 7-4 after Shapovalov's double fault. Rafa saved break points at 0-1 in the second set and missed his chance on the return in the next one. Nadal fended off another break chance in the sixth game before Shapovalov broke him with a powerful backhand at 4-3 that sent him in front.
Serving for the set, the Canadian landed an ace in the ninth game to force the match tie break. The younger rival opened a 3-1 gap with a forehand winner and forged a 5-2 advantage with a well-constructed attack and a volley winner at the net.
Finding his strokes in the right moment, Denis blasted another forehand at 7-5 and sealed the deal with a backhand crosscourt winner at 9-6.