Murray impresses at Mubadala World Tennis Championship to set up semi-final with Nadal

British former world No 1 defeats compatriot Evans in straight sets, before Jabeur beats Bencic in the women's match

If his performance in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship quarter-final is any indication, then the early signs for the 2022 season are promising for Andy Murray.

The former world No 1, currently ranked 134th as he continues to make his way back from a career-threatening hip injury, displayed plenty of the Murray of old in his 6-3, 6-2 victory over compatriot Dan Evans in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening.

Most encouraging was his quick and mobile movement around the court, which has been one of his biggest strengths during a career that has delivered three Grand Slam titles.

Granted, it is still pre-season and there is a long and demanding year ahead that is sure to test and challenge Murray's body, but so far so good for the two-time MWTC winner.

"I did pretty well tonight," Murray said. "It’s quite a different match to play compared to other players on the tour; Dan plays with a lot of slice and variety, and conditions are pretty slow in the evening, so lots of long rallies. I think I did quite well.

"There were some takeaways from my game that I can work on," he added. "At times I was breathing heavy after some long points, which suggests I need to get my cardiovascular strength slightly better than what it is now. But today was a good step for me."

Murray's reward for his quarter-final victory is a blockbuster last-four showdown with Rafael Nadal. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who received a bye to the semi-finals, will play his first match since cutting his season short in August due to a long-term foot injury.

The pair have played each other 24 times on the ATP Tour, but the last meeting was back in 2016, which somewhat remarkably, Murray won on clay at the Madrid Masters.

"These are the sort of matches I want to be playing," Murray said. "I want to be playing against these guys in the biggest events again, and that’s something that motivates me. OK, it’s not an official match, but it's still an opportunity for me to play against him again.

"The last time we played was five or six years ago so it’s been a long time, and it shows the struggles I’ve been through the last few years, him as well recently. It’ll be nice to play against each other again."

In the first quarter-final, Canada's Denis Shapovalov impressed on his debut by easing past Taylor Fritz to book a clash with world No 5 Andrey Rublev from Russia.

Shapovalov, the world No 14, needed less than an hour to defeat his American opponent 6-3, 6-2 in Abu Dhabi.

"That felt pretty great for the first match," Shapovalov, 21, said. "I haven't played a match since Stockholm [in November], so it's been a while and it was great to get through it.

"Taylor's obviously a really great player and I've had a lot of battles with him, so to beat him today was great for me. I felt good out there and it was a good level for me."

In the one-off women's match, Tunisia's Ons Jabeur fought back from losing the first set to beat Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in a third-set championship tie-break.

The world No 10 - the highest-ranked Arab player in history - defeated the Olympic champion 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.

Updated: December 17th 2021, 11:30 AM