ABU DHABI: Andy Murray continued his march towards a possible third Mubadala World Tennis Championship title with an impressive display to end Rafa Nadal’s MWTC reign. He won their semi-final clash 6-3, 7-5, to set a final showdown with world No.5 Andrey Rublev on Saturday at the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City.
Murray has looked sharp on his return to Abu Dhabi at the 13th MWTC and showed great determination to see off long-time rival Nadal. Murray broke the reigning MWTC champion’s serve in game six and never looked back, taking out the first set 6-3.
Nadal saved a break point in the first game of the second set and had Murray on the backfoot in game four, but Murray held serve to square the set at 2-2. Nadal produced a huge forehand to save break point in game five and roared back from 0-30 in game nine to hold serve and take a 5-4 lead.
However, in his next service game, the Spanish star put a volley into the net and then went long with a backhand, handing Murray a 6-5 lead and a chance to serve for the match.
And the Scot obliged, holding serve to see out the match and set up an intriguing final clash with Rublev, who had earlier beaten Denis Shapovalov in the first semi-final.
“There were definitely some things I did really well out there. It was very special for me to be back out on the court playing against Rafa and playing in front of a big crowd,” said Murray after an impressive performance.
“I served better today, I was more comfortable and was able to dictate a lot more of the rallies and that will be important for me against Rublev, who is one of the best attacking players.”
“It makes a massive difference to playing in front of the fans. Fans are what makes sport special, and it makes it easier for players. Events such as this are great for the players. It gives us the chance to work on a lot of things and I think players look to play the right way when they come here because it sets you up for a big start of the year.”
Nadal chose to look at the positives in defeat despite not being able to make it to another final in front of his adoring Abu Dhabi fans.
“It’s been a long time since I played, and this was a tough opponent to face in my first match for a while. I did a lot of things well. It was a positive match in a lot of ways. Well done to Andy, I’m happy for him, but I will take the positives and we will continue learning,” said Nadal after his defeat. “This is just the beginning. It feels good to be back playing some good tennis.”