Andy Murray is the winner of the 2015 Mubadala World Tennis Championship, the Scot capturing the title for the second time after world number one Novak Djokovic was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s final due to a fever.
In an ironic turn of events, there was speculation leading into the final that Murray would be forced to withdraw from the final after he was seen clutching his left shoulder on several occasions during his semi-final win over Rafael Nadal and later confirmed that it was unusually sore. But scans on Saturday morning gave Murray the all-clear and he was ready to compete in the final when he was made aware of Djokovic’s surprise withdrawal.
The Serb looked in ominous form and peak physical condition on Friday night, when he easily dismissed world number 4 Stan Wawrinka to advance to the final, but apparently at training on Saturday morning Djokovic started to well decidedly unwell. With the Australian Open only a fortnight away, his team determined that it was better to be safe than sorry and, much to the disappointment of the Abu Dhabi crowd, Djokovic was forced to pull out of the final. That ended Djokovic’s 3-year stranglehold on the Abu Dhabi title, handing the crown and the US$250,000 winner-takes-all prize money to a grateful Murray.
At this stage, Djokovic has not pulled out of his next event, the Qatar Open in Doha, where he is appearing for the first time and is scheduled to play compatriot Dusan Lajovic in his first match. Let’s hope the Serb returns to full health quickly. Assuming that he does, there can be no denying that he will start as the clear favourite at Melbourne Park, after finishing the 2014 season in a blaze of glory and looking a class above Wawrinka in his only match in Abu Dhabi.
For Murray, while there was some disappointment in not being able to test himself against Djokovic, there were plenty of positive signs on show in Abu Dhabi to begin the 2015 season. The Scot moved extremely well and hit the ball very cleanly off both sides in his wins over Lopez and Nadal. Provided that his left shoulder calms down and doesn’t give him any further grief, Murray will be looking to make another deep run at the Australian Open. The 2013 Wimbledon champion is a 3-time finalist at Melbourne Park and will be hoping to go one step further this time around. Before then, Murray heads to Perth, where he will partner Heather Watson in the Hopman Cup. Murray made the final of the mixed teams event in 2010, partnering Laura Robson, and will again be a crowd favourite in Western Australia.
With the final off the cards yesterday, the crowd instead focused on the third place play-off between Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka. Both men were humbled in the semi-finals on Friday, but it was a vastly improved Nadal on Saturday, with the Spaniard playing much tighter on his backhand side and generally showing more of the aggressiveness for which he is known. The first set was a close affair, progressing to a tiebreaker before Nadal put his foot on the pedal, claiming 7 points out of 8 in the tiebreaker to clinch the set.
As was the case in the first set, Wawrinka and Nadal exchanged breaks of serve early in the second set before Nadal’s greater consistency started to shine through. Wawrinka tried to keep the points short and dictate play, but all too often he miscued when pulling the trigger. After 87 minutes, Nadal completed a 7-6(1) 6-3 victory that will provide him with plenty of confidence as he plots his return to the top of the tree. For Wawrinka, it was a week of mixed success, a win over Almagro offset by losses to Djokovic and Nadal. Still, the Swiss star got plenty of match practice and, given that last year he went winless in Abu Dhabi before capturing the crown in Melbourne, I suspect Wawrinka won’t be worrying too much as he heads to Chennai, where he is a two-time champion.
That’s it for my coverage from Abu Dhabi. I hope you have enjoyed it. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with daily coverage of the Australian Open. Until then, enjoy the tennis and follow all of my news and analysis on Twitter: @satelliteserve.