Nadal tops Berdych and looks sharp in return at Mubadala World Tennis Championship: ‘I created a lot of damage with my forehands’

Playing his first match in more than two months, Rafael Nadal made a triumphant return to the courts at the International Tennis Complex in Zayed Sports City, dismissing Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-4 in 75 minutes.

Rafael Nadal acknowledges the crowd during his straight-set victory over Tomas Berdych during the first day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sport City on December 29, 2016 in Abu Dhabi. Francois Nel / Getty Images
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ABU DHABI // Opponents beware. Rafael Nadal has rediscovered his mojo, with those majestic forehands being put to telling use against Tomas Berdych on Thursday, dismissing the world No10 6-0, 6-4 to book his place in the semi-finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

Playing his first match in more than two months, Nadal showed little rust as he romped through the opening set in 26 minutes. He then broke Berdych in the ninth game of the second for a 5-4 lead and served out at love for the match, closing with a blistering ace down the middle.

“I created a lot of damage with my forehands,” said defending MWTC champion Nadal, who will meet Milos Raonic in Friday’s second semi-final, incidentally a rematch of last year’s final.

“That has been one of my main goals in these past couple of seasons – to rediscover my forehand. When I am hitting my forehands, I feel in control of the points.”

• Read more: Rafael Nadal looks like his old self in return

The forehands simply flowed from Nadal’s racket, as the Spaniard hit deeper than he has over the past two seasons. This was his first match since a first-round exit from the Shanghai Masters in the second week of October. The Spaniard had brought his season to an early end to help recuperate from a recurring left wrist injury.

“I think in the first set, it was fantastic,” said the world No 9. “Every shot with my forehand, I created something. I was able to open the court, then change to the forehand down the line. That’s the way I need to play if I want to have success.

“I think it was a great match overall. I went to the net a few times and I didn’t miss much with my backhand. It’s great news because when I am losing my serve a lot of times, I come to press conferences and you guys ask me about the serve not working.

“Most times, it is not the serve. It’s the game from the baseline when I am losing a lot of my serves. It’s about the shots from the baseline.”

Thrilled to see his forehands doing the kind of damage they did in his peak years, Nadal is really positive about the new season.

“I think I played a fantastic first set,” he said. “Difficult to imagine playing a first set like this after a long time out without competing. It happened and I enjoyed a lot, and I think I played a very good second set too.

“When you have not competed for a while and come back, you don’t expect to play at that very, very high level in your first match. But I practised so good in Mallorca for one month and a half. I think a lot and I am excited to be back competing.

“I don’t have any expectations. I just want to enjoy. For me, there is no pressure now. It’s a moment where I just have to give my best because I am starting from zero. That’s my mentality – I am starting from zero again and I am trying to focus on things that will help me to win.

“That’s what I am going to try and do for the first couple of months of the season. I am excited and I will try to make something beautiful.”

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