ATP

Nadal beaten again but Spanish superstar says Mubadala 'goal is achieved'

By Sports Desk December 18, 2021

Rafael Nadal declared his Abu Dhabi mission a success despite suffering a second consecutive defeat at the Mubadala Tennis Championship on Saturday.

After a hard-fought battle with Andy Murray on Friday served up a reminder of many a classic match between the pair, it was Denis Shapovalov who beat Nadal in his second comeback clash.

Since losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals in June, Nadal had played only two matches due to a worrying foot injury.

That has been a long-term problem and the 35-year-old Spaniard chose this week's event to test how it would stand up to match conditions.

Canadian Shapovalov beat his fellow left-hander 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 10-6, but Nadal has done enough in his two matches, and in a practice session with Andrey Rublev, to be persuaded his prospects for 2022 are looking up, with the Australian Open just a month away.

The 20-time grand slam champion said: "Maybe it was too tough to start after a long time."

But he was laughing as he said that, and added: "The goal is achieved: to be back on court. I've played two matches and played more or less four hours on court.

"I enjoyed it. Congrats to Denis today. I wish you all the very best for the next season, and I'm going to try to keep going with my road."

Nadal said he would return to the tournament in future years, as long as he remains fit and still on tour.

"If I'm still playing tennis, I am always super happy to be here playing," he said. "Hopefully I can keep coming during the next couple of years."

Shapovalov, 22, is one of the ATP Tour's most talented youngsters, striving to make a telling impact while the likes of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray reach the twilight years of their careers.

He said of Saturday's win over Nadal: "Any time I get to go on court against a guy like Rafa is an honour for me.

"It's great to just see you back on the court and see you healthy. Hopefully you can grab a great season and keep going."

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    Wimbledon champion Djokovic has his route to Flushing Meadows blocked by red tape at present, with the United States refusing to allow unvaccinated foreign visitors to enter the country.

    US tennis authorities have pledged to adhere to government rulings surrounding COVID-19 protocols, despite including Djokovic on their entry list.

    For Djokovic to be allowed into the United States, it appears he would require a change of policy from law-makers, or he would have to be considered suitable for an exemption.

    Among those who would be eligible for such an exemption are "persons whose entry would be in the national interest".

    With 21 grand slam titles, Djokovic sits second on the men's all-time list behind Rafael Nadal, who has 22 victories at the majors. 

    And Fritz, ranked 13th in the world, said that while the situation is complicated, there is part of him that thinks Djokovic should be allowed to take part in the competition that starts in under a fortnight.

    "It's tough," he said. "I think on one side of it, I think it's tough to make certain exceptions to the rules for certain people.

    "I don't know how I feel about that, but then, at the same time, we're not the most COVID-safe country in general with how we are doing things.

    "So it does seem like, what's the harm of letting the best player in the world come play the US Open?

    "But like I said, at the same time, it's conflicting, because I don't know how I feel about making special exceptions just for one person because of who they are.

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