The 13th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi takes place between December 16-18. Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem, Denis Shapovalov, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev and a five-time winner Rafael Nadal will fight for a notable crown in the last notable tennis event of the 2021 season.
Two years ago, Nadal prevailed over Stefanos Tsitsipas in over three hours in the title match, lifting the fifth Mubadala trophy and hoping for more in two weeks. The Spaniard has not played since August, struggling with a foot injury that forced him to close the season earlier and undergo a minor intervention in Barcelona.
The 20-time Major winner is back on the practice court at home in Mallorca and will face Murray or Thiem in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi on December 17, in his first encounter in four and a half months. Rafa is careful in his statements ahead of the long-awaited return, saying he needs matches to test his current level and understand where he stands.
Nadal played 29 games in 2021, dealing with injuries from the opening weeks and skipping the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open. Rafa wasted two sets to love advantage against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open before missing all the action until Monte Carlo.
Rafael Nadal has struggled with injuries in 2021.
The king of clay claimed two titles on his beloved surface in Barcelona and Rome, hoping for more of the same at Roland Garros, where he chased the 21st Major crown. Novak Djokovic halted Nadal in the semi-final after an epic battle, and the Spaniard withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympic Games before playing two matches in Washington.
It was a clear sign for Rafa to finish his season and avoid more severe troubles with his injury, taking a break and hoping for a fresh start in 2022. "Until I have things 100% clear, I can not say much; in the end, I do not know either.
As I said a few weeks ago, my idea is to be in Abu Dhabi, and that's still my plan. After that, things will be taken week by week, as always when you make a comeback and want to compete at your best. You do not know where you are until you increase the number of matches and test yourself at the highest level.
At the moment, I have to follow a specific pattern. Things are better than before; otherwise, I would not consider going to Abu Dhabi. What will happen from now on? I do not know; Abu Dhabi is a test for me, and I'm looking forward to being there," Rafael Nadal said.