Despite playing only 13 events – four less than even Roger Federer – Nadal still finished No. 2 in the ATP Rankings, backed by – alert: you’ve heard this before – his record-setting clay-court season, which featured four of his five titles, including his 11th Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Roland Garros titles.
If Nadal can, yet again, produce a historic European clay-court swing in 2019, expect him to earn another Top 3 finish.
“I started two weeks ago and of course doing the things step by step and I think I have time to be ready for Melbourne [Australian Open] at my 100 per cent,” Nadal told reporters in the UAE capital on Thursday.
“It’s going to be good to have some matches before but I’m confident that I’m going to arrive to Melbourne with the right situation.”
“Abu Dhabi is one of my favorite places to play,” said Nadal, already a four-time champion at the event. “The climate, atmosphere and enthusiasm from the crowds in Abu Dhabi provides the perfect start to the new season. The tournament brings together players at the top of their game.”
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The Spaniard is set to make his first appearance since his US Open semi-final retirement against Juan Marti del Potro in the UAE capital this weekend, opening his campaign against either Kevin Anderson or Chung Hyeon on Friday.
Once again, one of the biggest challenges facing Nadal in 2019 will be his fitness. His issues this year didn’t stop him from winning a 17th major last June though, where he picked up a record-extending 11th French Open crown.
Soon, pictures of one of the world’s greatest tennis players, covered in mud and sweeping the streets with a broom, went around the world.
“The next day, we went on court and after 10 minutes, I said ‘Guys, I can’t practice.'” he recalled about that day. “I came back, and I was here with the friends and after that, we decided to go there. That’s all.”
Nadal also opened up his academy to victims of the flash floods who were in need of shelter and this week he donated one million euros ($1.1 million) to the victims of the disaster.
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PHOTOS: Rafa has arrived in Abu Dhabi
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- Rafael Nadal confident he’ll be 100% ready for Melbourne | Sport 360