Abu Dhabi: The fortunes and expectations of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could not have been more contrasting at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Friday night.
While Nadal says he needs to improve after suffering a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Andy Murray in the semi-final of the event, World No. 1 Djokovic warned his rivals he feels ‘at the peak of my powers’ as he swept aside Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2.
It was Nadal’s first match for two months after having his appendix removed – he was also sidelined by back and wrist injuries in 2014 – and Murray was unsurprisingly the far sharper and more accurate of the pair.
However, the Scot told media afterwards that he had sustained a shoulder injury, which required after-match treatment and which he will assess on Saturday morning to ascertain whether he is fit to face Djokovic.
The man he vanquished, Nadal, said earlier that he felt the scoreboard did not tell the full story of an encounter in which he squandered a litany of chances to break Murray’s serve: “6-2, 6-0 is too much; I had a lot of chances to have a closer result. I have to improve, that’s obvious and I’m going to improve. This match helps me and the defeat does not affect me too much.
“I felt I was dominating the points a lot of times, but I am missing competitive spirit. I am going to keep working hard [to regain that].”
There were no such worries for the majestic Djokovic, who feels he is capable of replicating his annus mirabilis of 2011, when he won three grand slams and compiled a 41-match winning streak.
After his 57-minute demolition of Wawrinka in the second semi-final at Zayed Sports City Tennis Stadium, the Serb said: “I feel like I am at the peak of my career and abilities. In the back of my mind, I know what I did in 2011 and can do it again, but it will be hard to do it again.
“If I play at a high level consistently, I feel like I have a good chance against anyone on any surface.”
The 27-year-old added: “I have no complaints and from the first to the last point, I executed everything I wanted. Of course, I haven’t played an official match for over a month, so I am really glad to have played at such a high level against one of the best players in the world.
“Murray played exceptionally well and hopefully we can play a good final.”
Murray was indeed impressive, potent on both wings and indomitable when Nadal threatened his serve.
“If I can play like that and move as well I can do, I will make life tough for Novak,” he said.
“I managed to win a lot of the closer points and it was a good quality match from my side.”
A sore left shoulder is a concern for Murray, though, and left him mystified as to how it occurred.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” he said. “I’ve never had anything happen to my left shoulder before. I felt it when I was signing balls afterwards and picking up bottles.
“I’ve seen my physio and had some treatment and ice.”
Could the injury jeopardise his chances of facing Djokovic?
Murray said: “I will see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow. I will have a scan at midday and see what happens after that.”
Otherwise, Murray feels in prime shape for the 2015 season after subjecting himself to a gruelling pre-season fitness camp in Miami.
“I worked a lot physically, especially on my speed around the court, which is something I hadn’t done for a long time,” the two-time grand slam champion said. “I feel good. I had the right amount of rest and training in the off-season, so I feel match fit.”
Saturday’s schedule sees Nadal take on Wawrinka in third and fourth-place play-off at 5pm, followed by Djokovic and Murray’s showdown at 7pm.