Offside since August due to a foot injury, 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal has made significant progress in the past two months. The 35-year-old left-hander will return to action in Abu Dhabi on December 16-18, entering the 13th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Center.
The Spaniard is a five-time Mubadala champion, securing the last title in that epic 2019 final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Eager to compete in one of his favorite tournaments again, Nadal declared how much he loves playing in Abu Dhabi, feeling great on the court and starting many seasons from that event.
This season, Rafa played fewer than 30 games due to injuries, won two titles and accumulated enough points to finish another year in the top 10. Rafa feels confident that he can make a fresh start in Abu Dhabi, hoping to play a couple of tournaments before the Australian Open and raise his level before the first Major of the season.
At the Mubadala World Tennis Championships two years ago, Nadal beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 in three hours and 15 minutes of grueling battle to claim the fifth title. It was one of the best encounters in the history of this tournament, and Rafa needed everything from his arsenal to overcome the young challenger, who beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
"Abu Dhabi is a special place for me, where I have been many times and where I started my seasons many times. Since I first came to Abu Dhabi, I have had a great response from the fans, and I am sure that the atmosphere will be special as always”, said Rafael Nadal.
Nadal reflects on mental strength
Rafael Nadal proceeded to talk about mental strength, and how having a solid temperament can help overcome challenges in training and match-like situations. Explaining that things are not always what they seem like, Nadal opened up about the difficulties he has faced.
He also mentioned that even the strongest players can take a hit when the demands from the sport get too high. "It [mental strength] is a very important aspect and more [so] in a sport like tennis," Nadal said. "It is vital to have a base from a young age.
People tell me that I am very strong mentally, but I also suffer, like everyone else and I see it very black [sometimes]. But the essence of sport is that despite seeing something [as] almost impossible, you can [still] achieve it."
Rafael Nadal also spoke about the ongoing FIFA World Cup qualifiers, where Spain currently sit on top of the table with 16 points from seven games. "Yesterday was very productive, due to our result and that of Sweden," Nadal said. "I think that even though we are facing a remodeled team, it is fully complying."