Rafael Nadal announces end to 2021 season through injury
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Andy Murray is set to face his old rival Rafael Nadal for the first time in more than five years. The Brit defeated Dan Evans at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition on Thursday for the chance to meet the world No 6 in the semi-final. Their match will be Nadal’s first since ending his 2021 season early with a left foot injury.
Murray is playing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship for the first time since 2016.
A two-time champion at the off-season exhibition tournament, he opened his campaign for a third title with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Dan Evans in a Battle of the Brits, and the first meeting between the two.
The current wold No 134 had originally been set to face Dominic Thiem in the Austrian’s first tournament since ending his season with a wrist injury he picked up on the grass courts of Mallorca in June.
But the 2020 US Open champion withdrew saying he wasn’t ready to compete at the highest level yet, and world No 25 Evans stepped in to replace him.
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Barring a few tough service games, as he saw his serve broken twice during the match, Murray produced an impressive performance to build on his momentum from the end of the 2021 season and secure a victory over his friend and compatriot.
While the three-time Grand Slam champion was unable to test Thiem in his first match after injury, he will now have a chance to do the same for his old Big Four rival Nadal.
The Spaniard suffered a shock semi-final loss at the French Open, where he is a 13-time champion, and subsequently withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics, later revealing he aggravated a left foot injury during the clay-court Grand Slam.
He made a short-lived comeback at the Washington ATP 500 but ended his season early after playing just two matches, and returns on Friday (December 17) at the Abu Dhabi exhibition event to face Murray for a spot in the final.
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Following his victory over Evans, Murray explained why it meant so much to face Nadal for a 25th time.
“I don’t know if I’m gonna get the opportunity to play matches like that again,” the world No 134 admitted.
“Rafa’s someone I had great battles with he’s obviously had his injury troubles as well.”
The pair have not played each other since May 2016, when Murray defeated the Spaniard 7-5 6-5 in the Madrid Masters semi-final.
The match came just two weeks after Nadal defeated then-world No 2 Murray 2-6 6-4 6-4 during the Monte Carlo Masters semi-final.
With Murray and Nadal now aged 34 and 35, having both experienced recent injury troubles, the Brit also joked: “Hopefully we can put on a good performance for a couple of old guys.”
Their semi-final is scheduled for 3pm UK time on Friday (December 17).
They will compete in the second semi-final of the day, after Denis Shapovalov faces world No 5 Andrey Rublev in the first last-four match at 1pm UK time.
Dan Evans will also get another shot on the match court in Abu Dhabi, as he will face Taylor Fritz in a fifth-place play-off as the two players who lost their opening matches to Murray and Shapovalov respectively.
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