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The comeback kids analyse the last three days

The two comeback players at the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi have left the UAE capital with plenty to think about.

It's a huge pleasure to share a court with Andy. He is a special player; a true legend and it was a great match. I think the spectators enjoyed it and that is what we are playing tennis for, Andrey Rublev

Andy Murray departed after losing the final match 6-4 7-6 (2) to Andrey Rublev after Rafa Nadal, a five time winner in Abdu Dhabi, had lost his second match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships, the third place play-off with Denis Shapovalov, 6-7 6-3 [10-6].

“It’s my third time here and I always love coming. You get quality matches against top players. It’s great to have these types of matches ahead of the new season, that’s why we are here; it’s great preparation,” the Russian said following his triumph.

“It’s a huge pleasure to share a court with Andy. He is a special player; a true legend and it was a great match. I think the spectators enjoyed it and that is what we are playing tennis for,” he added.

Murray was in fact, unable to make an impact on the Rublev game who dominated the Brit throughout the first set and for much of the second.

The Murray serve kept him in contention and nearly brought him back in the match but Rublev always managed to come up with an answer.

However Murray believes he is playing with more “clarity” and has a better idea of how he needs to compete against the top players and is approaching the new season with renewed purpose and confidence as he pursues his goal of getting back to the top echelons of the game.

For the Brit it’s been a positive three days having claimed two victories leading to the final, firstly over compatriot Dan Evans and then Nadal playing his first match since August.

The 34-year-old Scot, who is attempting a comeback no player with a metal hip has achieved before, struggled to find his best form against the top players last season, but finished 2021 with some promising results, including two top-10 triumphs over Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner.

“I feel like now I’m a lot clearer in my mind about how I’m going to play and the way I’m going to go about my matches in the next year,” Murray told the media in his final press conference in Abu Dhabi.

“Decision-making comes from having a clear mind and clarity about the way you want to play and right now I’m quite sure on that and I believe that will help me in the important moments.”

Murray missed this year’s Australian Open after testing positive with Covid and with the current surge in cases in the UK, is wary of suffering a similar fate ahead of next month’s action in Melbourne.

“Obviously it’s a concern,” he said. “I want to try and stay safe. When I get home, I’m going to do all of my physical training at home in my house and avoid going to the national tennis centre; there’s been a number of cases there the last week to 10 days.”

Following his current performances, Murray is hoping to receive a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open – a tournament where he has reached five finals without claiming the trophy.

Murray, who recently parted company with his long-time coach Jamie Delgado, has yet to confirm whether he will extend his trial period with German coach Jan de Witt, who was with him in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m flying home this evening, will have a chat to the team, go through how the week was. I think overall it was positive,” he said.

Rafa Nadal (foreground) walks off court with Denis Shapovalov (background) following their third-place play-off.


Meanwhile, Nadal leaves the UAE capital with two close defeats to Murray and Shapovalov, which were his first competitive matches in nearly six months and remains non-committal on his future plans, including the Australian Open.

“I need to speak with my team. Being 100 percent honest, I can’t guarantee 100 percent. The idea is to go there and try my best there in Australia, that’s the goal and that’s my idea,” revealed the 20-time major champion.

“But we need to come back, see how the body feels after these couple of days then that’ll be the time to make decisions. I go day by day at this moment of my career and after all the things that I went through, I need to think very well of every movement.”

Of the two former world No.1s, Murray would seem to have a more positive attitude, but tennis fans hope both will be participating in the first grand slam of the 2022 season.



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