Last week, Rafael Nadal had announced that he will kick off his new season at the high-profile exhibition tournament – the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi just like every year. On Monday, Rafa got to know who his opponent will be in his very first match of this 29-31 December event as the draw got released.
The three-time winner, who is also the defending champion, will start off the proceedings against the World No. 10 Tomas Berdych while the other first round match will see a tussle between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin.
World No. 1 Andy Murray will take on the winner of the contest between Tsonga and Goffin while Milos Raonic gets to meet the victor of the Nadal vs Berdych clash in the semi-finals.
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship Draw is done. Rafa will face Berdych on Dec 29 & the winner will face Raonic on Dec 30 pic.twitter.com/4qRur2vgB8— Genny SS (@genny_ss) November 14, 2016
The Mubadala Championships has been the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s regular season-opener since 2008. After losing the 2009 final to Murray, he won it for the first time in 2010 beating Robin Soderling and successfully defended the title in the very next edition when he got the better of Roger Federer.
He added to his tally in the last season by prevailing over Raonic.
If the former World No. 1 wants to repeat his success, he will have to play on all three days.
Even though Rafa is making his usual start at this event, he has made changes in his ATP schedule next year. Instead of the Qatar Open, the Spaniard will be making his debut at the Brisbane International where Stan Wawrinka will also be playing.
Nadal wrapped up his 2016 season early after being plagued by a wrist injury that also saw him miss more than two months. Even though he did make a grand return at the Rio Olympics capturing the men’s doubles gold and reaching the singles semis, he could not sustain that level for long. Early exits followed at the subsequent tournaments until it was revealed that Rafa was suffering from a bone edema on his left wrist that contributed to all the losses.
It prompted the 30-year-old to call time on his season in order to recover properly and gear up for 2017.
Later on, his uncle and coach Toni too confessed that his nephew should not have played after the US Open and an overload of schedule was responsible for making the injury flare up.
His 2017 comeback will thus be a much-awaited one. Even though Rafa’s Mubadala Championships opponent, Berdych did beat Nadal at the 2015 Australian Open, the Czech himself has not been in the best of conditions of late. The 2010 Wimbledon runner-up has been diagnosed with appendicitis that might require surgery because of which he even declined to be an alternate at the ongoing ATP World Tour Finals.
The 31-year-old has announced his intentions of having the surgery as soon as possible if needed at all, so that he can resume his training for the next season at the earliest.