Abu Dhabi: Former world No 1 Andy Murray eased past Rafa Nadal 6-3, 7-5 in the Spaniard’s comeback match at the World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on Friday to set up a summit clash with Russia’s Andrey Rublev.
More than five years on from their last meeting, both players made impressive starts but the Scot’s superior match practice told as he saved a break point in the third game of the match and then broke himself to easily claim the first set.
“Me and Rafa have played so many tough matches over the years... both of us have gone through injury troubles and it’s just great to have the opportunity to be with him on court again,” said Murray, who is bidding for his third title in Abu Dhabi.
Nadal, who was making his first appearance since the Washington Open in August due to a foot injury, added: “Special to be back in a competition... at the same time we haven’t played each other in a while. Super happy to be seeing Andy playing at this great level.” The 20-times Grand Slam champion battled valiantly in the second set and saved a number of break opportunities, but it was Murray who secured the crucial break at 5-5 before serving out to secure victory in an hour and 50 minutes.
“For me, this is a comeback. It wasn’t a bad match for me. After a long time on a professional court, so positive feelings,” added Nadal.
Rublev defeated Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 in the other semi-final.
Serving a treat
Before serving a treat for fans on the court, Murray served up a culinary treat in an entertaining cook-off with Belinda Bencic.
As Olympic champions the pair can stand the heat of battle on court, but their skills were tested on the live cooking stage as they joined top chefs from Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, to prepare a dish of Steamed Alaskan King Crab with Beluga Caviar.
Cheered on by Championship MC Marcos Baghdatis and culinary captains Chef Catay and Chef Okan, Murray and Bencic were given 20 minutes to prepare their dishes.
Two-time MWTC champion Murray, who took time out of preparing for his blockbuster semi-final with Rafa Nadal to take to the stage, drew laughter from an enthralled crowd when he revealed he had only first tried cooking during lockdown last year.
Bencic delivered the perfect drop shot during the contest by revealing she feels just as much at home in the kitchen as well as on court and enjoys making brownies and cheesecakes. The revelation drew cheers from the crowd and looks of disbelief from a competitive Murray, as Swiss star Bencic was declared the winner.
— With inputs from Reuters