Stan Wawrinka pleased with his game despite loss to Milos Raonic

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Confident: Stan Wawrinka.

Stan Wawrinka was pleased with his level despite his 7-5, 7-5 defeat to Milos Raonic in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship semi-finals Friday, in which the Swiss blew a 5-2 opening set lead.

The world No4, who is the highest ranked competitor in the six-player Abu Dhabi field, looked on his way to a one-set advantage before Raonic rallied to take the next five consecutive games.

– VIDEO: Raonic hoping for better performance against Nadal

– VIDEO: Nadal reflects on victory over Ferrer in MWTC semi
– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016

– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016

Wawrinka had a window to force a third set when he broke Raonic as the Canadian world No14 was serving for the match at 5-4, second set. But was unfazed and broke again, this time sealing his victory with a service winner.

Raonic, making his debut in the UAE capital, had beaten Kevin Anderson in his first match on Thursday and will now square off with Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s final.

On his part, Wawrinka was not too disappointed with his form and is happy he gets to play a third-place playoff against Ferrer today.

“For sure I lost five games in a row wasn’t great, but in general I think the level was good,” Wawrinka told Sport360.

“First match of the year, you need to find your game. A little bit hesitation in some games. I liked the conditions, I think it was a good level, I’m quite happy with the match in general. I still see where I can improve a little bit more.

Stan Wawrinka returns the ball to Milos Raonic during their semi-final match.

“My serve wasn’t great today, the rhythm wasn’t great, but the rest in general I think I moved well and I’m happy with that start. For sure I would’ve preferred to win but I have the chance to play another match tomorrow against David Ferrer. It’s going to be a completely different match so for me it’s really good to try and raise my level.”

Nadal and Ferrer played a tremendous match earlier on centre court and Wawrinka says he was not surprised the two Spaniards were competing at such a high level.

“I’m not surprised because we come here to win. Even if it’s the first match of the year, even if it’s the first tournament. It’s great conditions. We’re here to beat top guys, there are only top guys here. You don’t come here just to try, you’re here to put your game there and try to win,” said Wawrinka.

On his part, Raonic is looking forward to facing Nadal in the final Saturday.

“We’ll see tomorrow what the signs are like but I’m happy with the way things are progressing. It’s going to be a tough match that’s for sure, but Rafa always makes it tough even if he’s not in his tip-top shape. But from watching today I thought he played very well today so it’s going to be an exciting opportunity tomorrow,” said Raonic, who beat Nadal for the first time last year at Indian Wells but still trails the Mallorcan 1-6 head-to-head.

“Rafa’s the kind of the guy who needs to play matches and he played a lot at the end of the year and he’s got those matches behind and he’s obviously going to feel comfortable, he’s going to find answers. So tomorrow hopefully I’m going to take some of those answers away.”  

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Rafael Nadal reaches final of MWTC

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Rafael Nadal returns the ball to David Ferrer during the MWTC semi-final.

For all those worried about the state of Rafael Nadal’s game heading into the new season, the Spaniard’s impressive 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 battling victory over his countryman David Ferrer Friday in Abu Dhabi should ease their concerns.

Nadal, who is his own worst critic, said he was pleased with “all aspects” of the way he played in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship semi-finals, and understandably so.

– VIDEO: Nadal reflects on victory over Ferrer in MWTC semi
– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016
– MWTC: Anderson comfortable with place among elites
– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016

The world No5 was in explosive form, so was Ferrer, as they pushed each other like they were fighting for the French Open crown and not a place in the final of an exhibition event.

Nadal had lost his opening match in Abu Dhabi on each of his last three visits to the UAE capital and he was happy he finally bucked that trend.

Against Ferrer, he was hitting the lines, coming to the net, moving incredibly well and standing well inside the court. Such form on New Year’s day is not typically expected and Nadal admits his rhythm was that of someone who had been competing for months and not one returning from an offseason.

“I started very well. It was a great match I think. First match of the season and the rhythm and intensity of the game is like after six months of the season,” said a delighted Nadal, who faces Milos Raonic in the final today.

“So we played I think a great match both of us. We were talking after in the locker room and I think both of us were happy the way we played, happy the way that we moved, and the way that we competed. We tried our best and I think the people enjoyed it. We played great points and for me it’s important to start with a victory, tomorrow I have a chance to play again and I’m excited about it.”

Nadal had said after his final match of 2015 – semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals in London – that he doesn’t deserve a vacation and indeed he didn’t take one. He says he only had a couple of days off before he started his 2016 preparation, that included a brief appearance in the IPTL with the rest done in Mallorca.

“First match of the season and the rhythm and intensity of the game is like after six months of the season” – Nadal

Asked if having virtually no break has helped him maintain his rhythm, Nadal said: “A few things. I didn’t stop, second and the most important thing is that since three or four months I am playing much better and I’m feeling good on court and today was a good confirmation of that in the first match of the season.

“So just happy the way that I played in all aspects, I just need to keep going.”

Nadal is confident he will be competitive this season and is not worried about bridging the gap with the world’s top-two Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

“I didn’t have some problems when I met these players, the problem is I haven’t met these players, that’s the real thing,” Nadal joked, implying he was losing too early in the draws to face the top guys.

“I’m working hard to be at the level of these players. I know that when I was playing well during my career I was ready to compete against all of these guys. And I feel good now. So let’s see. I feel ready to compete.”

On centre court at Zayed Sports City, Nadal broke for a 4-1 lead and sealed the opening set with an ace.

The 29-year-old twice went up a break in the second but Ferrer found his inner beast and broke back both times to force a tiebreak, which he secured with a huge forehand.

The pair were trading 20+-shot rallies and hitting big from every inch of the court. Nadal broke with an inch-perfect forehand down-the-line early in the decider and consolidated with an even crisper drop shot for 3-0.

Ferrer’s never-say-die spirit though saw the world No7 break back but Nadal retaliated in the eighth game and served out the match for the win.  

“Now is the time to enjoy that victory in the semi-finals that after a few years without winning this semi-final match. It’s great to be back in the final and I’m going to try my best to be ready for tomorrow and play a good match,” added Nadal.

Ferrer will face Stan Wawrinka in the third-place playoff after the Swiss world No4 fell to Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-5 in the other semi-final. 

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Milos Raonic hoping for better things

niall 1/01/2015
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World No14 Milos Raonic reflects on his win over Stanislas Wawrinka, and looks ahead to the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship against Rafa Nadal. 

– VIDEO: Nadal reflects on victory over Ferrer in MWTC semi

– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016

– MWTC: Anderson comfortable with place among elites

– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016









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