Rafael Nadal’s return to the match court will be a highly anticipated affair — at least by exhibition standards — and it will come against a familiar foe.
Nadal is set for a Mubadala World Tennis Championship semifinal showdown against Andy Murray on Friday night after Murray defeated Dan Evans during quarterfinal action on Thursday. As one of the top two seeds along with Andrey Rublev, Nadal received an opening bye in the six-man field. Rublev will kick off his campaign against Denis Shapovalov in Saturday’s first semifinal.
Murray had no trouble easing past Evans 6-3, 6-2. In the all-British battle, the 34-year-old broke his compatriot five times in eight return games — including three times in succession to begin the second set. Murray dropped his own serve once it each set — including at 5-1 in the first — but it hardly mattered given his dominance from the baseline.
Now it will be Murray vs. Nadal for the third time at this Abu Dhabi event.
“I played one great match against Nadal here,” the Scot reflected. “We played one really tough match, a sort of epic match, and another where I won very comfortably, and it was probably one of the best matches I’ve ever played over the years.
“I didn’t know whether I was going to get the opportunity to play matches like that again. Rafa’s someone that I’ve had some great battles with at some of the biggest tournaments in the world. It’ll be great. Hopefully we can put on a great performance.”
Their 7:00 pm match will be immediately preceded by Rublev vs. Shapovalov. The Canadian booked his place in that contest by beating Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-0. Both Fritz and Evans were replacements following late withdrawals by Dominic Thiem and Casper Ruud.