Rafael Nadal clinched his fifth Mubadala World Tennis Championship title in a three-hour epic with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Spaniard took three hours and twelve minutes, to be precise, to secure a breath-taking win over the in-form Greek, winning 6-7, 7-5, 7-6.
The world number one had only a little over a week’s worth of hitting practice going into the Abu Dhabi tournament, but was in scintillating form to dispatch Karen Khachanov on Friday night, and the ATP Tour finals winner Tsitsipas on Saturday evening.
It was Nadal’s tenth outing in the UAE capital, and he becomes the first man to take the title on five occasions – having been tied on four with Novak Djokovic previously.
In front of a capacity crowd at the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Nadal was on the end of what he saw as a questionable umpiring call to allow Tsitsipas to take out a first-set tiebreak 7-3 following an opening stanza of phenomenal quality.
Chasing a first Abu Dhabi title since 2016, Nadal held serve in the opening game of the second set and more high class play followed, belying the early stage of the season and the fact both players are still in preparation mode ahead of the 2020 campaign. The Spaniard saved two break points in game nine and, roared on by his vociferous supporters, he then broke Tsitsipas’ resolve in game 12 to take the second set 7-5.
Nadal broke serve in game six of the deciding set, only for Tsitsipas to fight back with a break in game seven. Both players then held their serves to take the match into a championship deciding tiebreak and the Spaniard used all his experience to take the decider 7-3 and seal an epic 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 victory after more than three hours on court.
Following his victory, Nadal was presented with the 2019 Mubadala World Tennis Championship trophy by HH Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Sports Council. HH Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Tennis Federation awarded the runners-up trophy to Tsitsipas, in the presence of H.E Humaid Al Shimmari, Deputy CEO and Chief Corporate and Human Capital Officer, Mubadala; Nabih Bouery, Vice President, Flash Entertainment and Ashwaq Abdulla, the 2019 trophy designer who is the first Emirati female to create the trophy for this championship.
After setting a new record in Abu Dhabi, Nadal, said: “It’s a real pleasure to come here and to win a fifth title means a lot to me. I had a great match yesterday and a great match today.
“Hopefully I can stay healthy and hopefully I will be back next year. The crowds have been amazing and it is a real pleasure to play in front of you all.”
Runner-up Tsitsipas, said: “I gave it my all out there and I liked your support. I’ve really enjoyed it in Abu Dhabi, the people have been very nice. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to witness that. I think I’ve made 8,000 new friends today.”
Earlier in the day, Djokovic claimed victory over Russian opponent Karen Khachanov in the third-place play-off, securing a 7-5, 6-3 win in 1 hr and 6 mins.
The World No. 2 and four-time champion took charge of the match from the outset and enjoyed his time on court, playing to the crowd at the end of the match with a contest challenging sections to cheer loudest.
“Abu Dhabi is a really impressive place and this tournament is one of the rare tournaments that consistently offers a very high-class field. It’s something of a tradition for me to come here and it has been great to get some quality match time under my belt,” said Djokovic.
Khachanov has also been a fan favourite in Abu Dhabi. He hailed the championship after claiming fourth place in his second Mubadala World Tennis Championship appearance.
“It’s a well-organised event, you have everything you need, great practice facilities. You can come a little earlier with the family and enjoy a little, the conditions are similar to what we will have in Australia. When it’s a strong field like this year then it’s great for anybody to play these types of matches,” said Khachanov.
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