Saturday, December 31, 2011

MWTC: Rafa adds a few grams of weight to his racquet

Although Nadal and Federer lost yesterday, that still leaves us with an incredible third-place playoff today at 3pm featuring the current second and third best players in the world.

Nadal reiterated his comments about treating his matches in Abu Dhabi and Doha as a mere practice but the Mallorcan also revealed he has made a slight adjustment to his racquet for the new season, adding a slight extra weight at the top, in hopes to get more power.

He says: “I’m playing with a little bit of more weight on the racquet. I suppose I have one month to practice with that, finally I had five days. I need hours on court with that. It’s a change that I consider will help me in the future but not immediately. Every change at the beginning is something new, and you go a little bit down and after you go up.

“We are trying to have a little bit more power with the racquet. Trying to find a little bit more winners. So that’s the reason. We believe that can help but when you are able just to practice with that for five, six days, that’s not enough. “I need more matches. Tomorrow I will have another practice, and Doha another one. These two, three weeks, will be very important for me.”

Meanwhile Federer isn’t putting too much weight on his smashing defeat to Djokovic yesterday as he prepares for yet another encounter with his archrival, Nadal.

He says: “It’s not going to affect me, because I knew it wasn’t the perfect start for me to play Novak first up knowing that he had another match beforehand, it’s not an excuse, it’s reality, and I wish you could start slower but they have amazing draws here, and when I saw the draw I was like… (laughs) OK it is what is, you know I’ll try to be as well-prepared as I can be then obviously this is now a disappointing result for me but I know that I can’t put myself too down, this is just the beginning, and I have another match tomorrow, then this one will be forgotten.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MWTC: Nadal practices in Abu Dhabi, talks Djokovic, Davis Cup and more...

As an avid Rafa fan, I have to say watching him practice today got me rather concerned. Let me start by saying I have no doubt that he will get back to his very best, because once a fighter, always a fighter.

But right now, he seemed tired, a bit down and basically not fresh enough for the new season.

I guess his plan is to power through the next month and properly prepare in February for the hectic schedule that is to follow.

Here are some excerpts from his press conference today in Abu Dhabi:

On Djokovic:

"Novak played fantastic last year so he deserves to be there. For me I accept the situation, congratulate him, say he did fantastic, that’s sport. Roger is not going to be there forever, I’m not going to be there forever and Novak isn’t going to be there forever. Tennis changes, the sport changes and at the same time it’s good to have players to be there in the top for a long time because that’s good for the fans, makes things interesting, but it’s good to have different people, but Novak is nothing new, he has been No3 in the world for the past 3, 4 years and he deserves to be there today and that’s all."

On his shoulder injury:

Check the full story at Sport360

On Davis Cup and Alex Corretja:

"No, I haven’t talked to him (Corretja). I received a message from him two days ago, and I have a very good relationship with him. First two confrontations for me are going to be impossible, everybody knows that. Later we’ll see but the first two, I’m not going to be there. I have the shoulder now, I had a very long season last year, played more matches than almost everybody else, this year we have the Olympics so that makes the schedule with less breaks, so the beginning of Davis Cup is straight after Australia and I didn’t have the chance to practice, no physical, no tennis so I have to practice more and I need February more to practice well, physical, tennis to prepare for the rest of the season because for me the most important part of the season starts in Indian Wells and finishes normally in Wimbledon, this year will finish in Olympics and after it’s not going to finish because after the Olympics we will go to Canada, Cincinnati and US Open. And the second confrontation is just before Monte Carlo and I understand after Miami the normal thing is try to get back slowly to the clay. I always try my best for Davis Cup but we can’t be 100 per cent in every tournament and Davis Cup is a competition we won five times in the last ten years, that’s a lot. In Spain we have a lot of players that can keep winning confrontations, I will be there supporting my team, but not on court especially in the beginning of the year."

On whether he will change his game to counter Djokovic & co:

"I am doing always my way, that’s what I’ve done all my career. It’s not the time to change a lot of things, it’s the time to keep playing well, try to keep improving my tennis. My goal is always to be a better player. That’s my only goal, after if one player like Novak, Roger, David, Murray I don’t know, a few players play better than me, that’s all. But I work hard. I have been competitive last year in almost every tournament. I played a lot of finals. Three Grand Slam finals. I was happy, I wasn’t perfect, but I was playing really good, not perfect. With Djokovic last year I had to be perfect and I wasn’t. I have to be consistent this year. Try to create opportunities another time. That’s what I have to do."

On his priorities in 2012:

"For me the priority always is the same, be healthy, be happy playing tennis and be competitive in all the tournaments that I’m going to play. Ranking is important? Yes. Tournaments are important? Yes. But the most important thing at the end of the day is to be happy playing tennis, be healthy. I feel happier when I go on court and I feel that I can beat anybody when I go to a tournament and I believe that I can win the tournament. I prefer to be No1 than No2, everybody wants that, but I prefer to have the chance to win tournaments."

On Abu Dhabi:

"What I see from the city is unbelievable how the city is improving year by year. It’s amazing and I have to congratulate the people from Abu Dhabi because I believe they’re doing a fantastic job."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Five reasons why I'm psyched for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Abu Dhabi is two days away from hosting its fourth Mubadala World Tennis Championship, and there are a ton of reasons why you should be excited if you're here, and jealous if you're not. Here are the top five reasons why I'm psyched for this tournament...

Obvious reason #1 - The unrivaled field
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils... These six players are present at the same tournament about 13 times a year, but that's usually in 64+ player draws where the attention is divided across so many players, the early rounds can feature matches you don't necessarily want to see (not me of course), and you have to wait to the quarters before you get a match-up like Tsonga v Nadal or Djokovic v Ferrer. In Abu Dhabi, you get six of the most talented players in the world taking centre stage throughout the three days, and you get a day 1 match like Djokovic v Monfils and Ferrer v Tsonga. With the winners moving on to face Nadal or Federer. That kind of class and quality is unmatched anywhere outside the ATP Tour/Grand Slams and to think you have two matches per day of such standard is just too exciting. It's like you skipped out on the early rounds of a Masters Series and fast-forwarded to Friday, where all the juicy stuff really begins.

Obvious reason #2 - The perfect timing
The tournament is at a pretty strategic timing if you ask me. We're all having tennis withdrawals, the players have all just spent at least a couple of weeks getting over any niggles or injuries and preparing for the new season, and all six of them will be looking to test themselves before heading to Australia. This is way better than having an exhibition event mid-season where the players are exhausted and could easily pull out a day before it begins because they picked up an injury and need to recuperate before the following week.

Obvious reason #3 - The exhibition factor
While there's no doubt the players need this tournament to figure out where they stand heading into 2012, the fact that it's an exhibition will allow them to swing freely, hit big, take risks and try new things, all which mean we're in for a treat. There'll be autograph sessions, player clinics, and a Kids Q&A session scattered in between some spectacular tennis. The access to what I personally consider the royalty of tennis is just too good to be true in this event. Not to mention $250k are up for grabs which let's face it, is quite an incentive for just three days of work. I repeat, we're in for a treat!

Obvious reason #4 - The weather
It's times like these where I forget for a few seconds the unbearable bouts of heat we get during the long summers of the UAE. The weather right now in Abu Dhabi is just phenomenal. This is the climate created for playing tennis, watching tennis, and everything related to tennis. It's the time of the year where being indoors is basically sinful. I've been talking to many players who have been training in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this month and the consensus is: you can't get weather like this right now without getting on a plane for 20 hours. It's no wonder they're all here!

Obvious reason #5 - The revisited rivalries
We have a chance to see Federer v Djokovic on day 2, followed by Federer v Nadal or Djokovic v Nadal on day 3. With Federer coming off his best season finish ever (according to him), Djokovic coming off his best season ever, and Nadal being the two-time defending champion, it's safe to say these matches are gonna be no friendlies. Nadal will want to post at least one win over Djokovic after losing to him six straight times in 2011, while Federer will be looking to pick up where he left off - which was winning three straight titles to finish the season. That's not to forget Tsonga, who besides Federer and Andy Murray, had an incredibly strong last quarter of the season himself. Between September and now, Tsonga made the US Open quarters, won Metz and Vienna, and made the finals of Paris and London (losing both to Federer). Could we see a third straight final between the Frenchman and Federer? Por que no?

MWTC schedule at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City:

Thursday 29th
3pm Ferrer v Tsonga
Not before 5pm Djokovic v Monfils

Friday 30th
3pm Federer v (winner of Djokovic v Monfils)
Not before 5pm Nadal v (winner of Ferrer v Tsonga)

Saturday 31st
3pm Third place play-off
Not before 5pm Final

Check here for detailed schedule with autograph session timings ...