Dubai: Rafael Nadal is in festive spirit as he returns to his happy hunting ground at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) this week.
The Spanish world No. 1 has very little left to achieve in the world of tennis, having claimed 19 Grand Slam titles, a record 35 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles, 20 ATP Tour 500 titles and an Olympic gold medal from 2008.
Yet the hunger for more still burns in his belly, a craving that is plain to see as he attempt to win his fifth MWTC title in the UAE capital this weekend, as he prepares for another gruelling season, including the new-look ATP Cup next month, where players from 24 countries represent their nations.
“I have always had a great time and enjoyed every minute at this event,” he exclusively told Gulf News this week.
“It is a great way to start the season and getting ready this year for the ATP Cup. In previous years it was my entrance to the new season continuing to other events as well.”
With the added inclusion of an exhibition match between WTA players Maria Sharapova and Ajla Tomljanovic this year, Nadal is sure this event will continue to grow and attract the biggest names.
“I always felt this event was getting better every year,” he said. “I am sure this year will be no exception to that.”
Fellow veteran and former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will also be in town for the MWTC, but with Nadal now 33 and his Serbian rival 32 — along with Roger Federer (38) and Andy Murray (32) — does the Spaniard see a changing of the guard away from the ‘Big Four’ any time soon, with the likes of ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev also taking part in Abu Dhabi?
“Daniil has had exceptional and incredible second half of the season,” said Nadal of the Russian who reached nine ATP finals in 2019 and went down in five sets to the Spaniard in the US Open final. “It is not easy to reach so many consecutive finals and win the tournaments he did. I think it was really impressive and my matches against him were really difficult.
Another highlight on Nadal’s crammed calendar in 2020 is the Tokyo Olympics this summer, an event he is relishing due to its unique character taking place among so many other events.
“I love the Olympic Games and had a great time in the last ones four years ago. That obviously was also great thanks to the medal (Nadal won doubles gold alongside Marc Lopez to go with his singles gold of 2008). I believe it is an amazing experience to be sharing the same place with all the other athletes from all different competitions.
Nadal also helped Spain claim the new-look Davis Cup on home turf in November winning all eight of his matches, with the multinational tournament now being held over one week and at one venue rather than spread out over a period of months.
“I enjoy very much playing team competitions and love to play for my country with other players,” said Nadal. “On top of that, this year I played in Madrid, in Spain at home so that was very special.”
While Nadal will need to go some to top a sensational 2019, it is clear he will continue to give his all as long as his body allows.