The 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal will play his first match in four and a half months on Friday in Abu Dhabi against Andy Murray. Two great rivals will compete in the semi-final of the 13th Mubadala World Tennis Championship, eager to face each other after numerous problems with injuries and no official encounters since Madrid 2016!
Rafa returns to action for the first time since early August, when he decided to wrap up the season and rest his left foot ahead of a fresh start in 2022. Making small steps and not thinking too far forward, the Spaniard wants to play injury-free in the upcoming season, not thinking about results and focusing on his physical strength.
Nadal claimed the 20th Major crown in Paris at the end of 2020 and could not follow that pace in the season behind us. Rafa played only 29 matches in 2021, lifting trophies in Barcelona and Rome after dealing with match points and securing the 17th consecutive season in the year-end top-10.
Still, the Spaniard could not fight for Major trophies like usually in the past 16 seasons, suffering a tough quarter-final loss at the Australian Open and leaving Roland Garros empty-handed. The 13-time champion failed to secure the fifth consecutive Roland Garros crown, reaching the semi-final and losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets after an epic battle that lasted four hours and 11 minutes.
Rafael Nadal wants to play injury-free in 2022.
Struggling with a foot injury, Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympic Games, taking a couple of weeks off and testing his physical shape in Washington. Competing in the USA capital for the first time, Rafa needed three hours and three minutes to outplay Jack Sock in the decisive tie break, struggling a lot but entering the next clash against Lloyd Harris.
The South African beat the Spaniard in three sets after two hours and ten minutes, and Rafa decided to wrap up his season after that encounter and switch his focus on 2022. "Let's see what will happen in the next couple of months.
We can talk about the GOAT race and Major titles later in the season if I'm back at my best. My current goal is to make an injury-free return and play competitive tennis," Rafael Nadal said.