‘It was a great victory’: Nadal fights off Raonic to reach Mubadala World Tennis Championship final

Rafael Nadal believes throwing giant-killing David Goffin off his rhythm will be the key in Saturday’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship final as the Spaniard squares off against the Belgian in a competitive match for the first time.

Rafael Nadal reacts during his win over Milos Raonic on the second day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi on December 30, 2016. Francois Nel / Getty Images
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ABU DHABI // Rafael Nadal believes throwing giant-killing David Goffin off his rhythm will be the key in Saturday’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship final as the Spaniard squares off against the Belgian in a competitive match for the first time.

Nadal, who had got his eighth MWTC campaign off with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych on Thursday, came out strong against Milos Raonic in Friday’s semi-final as well, winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the final here for a fifth time.

“It is always great to start the match like that,” said the world No 9 and defending, three-time MWTC champion. “Against Berdych, it was a really impressive first set and a really impressive match overall. Today, it was a good match again – not as good as yesterday, but still it was a very match for me.

“I had a good chance in the second set to break at 15-40, but then I lost a bit of the intensity and he played good from the baseline. He started to serve huge, a lot of percentage of first serves and second, and it was tough for me.

“In the third, I started serving a bit better again and playing a little bit more aggressive. It was a great victory against the No 3 player of the world.”

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Now, Nadal will be hoping to make a similar start against an opponent who is blessed with really quick feet and is gradually adding a potent serve to his arsenal. Goffin is picking up some big-name scalps as well.

The 5’11” Belgian has been felling giants at his Abu Dhabi debut, first defeating the burly Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Thursday before shocking world No 1 Andy Murray in front of a sold-out crowd at the Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre on Friday.

“I have never played in a tournament against him, but we practise together a lot,” said Nadal, who is playing his first tournament in more than two months after deciding to cut short his 2016 to treat a left wrist injury.

“We know each other really well. We practise together at almost every tournament. We have a good relationship. I know him and he knows me, but in competition, it is always different. This is the first match between us, and so it is going to be interesting.

“I know we are going to have a very, very tough match. He plays so quick and he plays so good, so we will see if I am able to put my rhythm on. Hopefully, I can change the direction and rhythm of the ball, then I will have a better chance. If not and he is playing comfortably, it will not be possible.”

Nadal and Goffin have been practising together in Abu Dhabi, as well, this week and the Belgian is impressed with the 14-time grand slam champion.

“Rafa looks really strong,” said Goffin, 26. “He looks really fit and I think he doesn’t have pain anymore in his wrist and all his body. I didn’t see a lot of his match against Berdych, but I heard he played really good.

“So I am sure it is going to be a good match against Rafa tomorrow.”

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