Roughly three weeks after leading Spain to Davis Cup title, Rafael Nadal geared up for the year 2020 with a thumping win against Karen Khachanov in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi. As compared to previous years, Nadal had a shorter off-season this time around and began his preparations for the new year with a comfortable win.
“I was a little bit surprised the way that I played. I have been playing well at the end of the season. And it was just 15 days ago, a little bit more that I was winning the Davis Cup with Spain with the rest of the guys, so things went quick,” Nadal told reporters in the UAE capital on Friday.
“And at some point, it’s negative that we didn’t have a lot of time but on the other hand I finished playing well and that helps to keep going playing well.”
Nadal, winner of 19 Grand Slams, will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, the winner of the ATP Finals on Saturday. Tsitsipas, who is ranked sixth in the world, defeated Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 [7/4], 6-4 is also gunning for glory in 2020, aiming to finish in the top-3 and what better way to enter the new year with a win over the current World No. 1.
“It’s good that he has a good ambition,” Nadal said of the young Greek. “It’s important to have clear goals, and then you have to do it, and it’s something difficult because being in the top three is not easy. There are a lot of players that will fight to be in the higher positions of the ranking, but of course he had a great season and he will fight for important things.”
Like Nadal, Djokovic, who lost to Tsitsipas for the second time his career, sees great future for the 21-year-old.
“Definitely he’s got the game, he’s got a really good approach, I think, to tennis, he’s very professional, very determined, he’s got all the elements he needs in order to reach that,” said Djokovic. “So now of course it’s a big task for anybody really to be top three in the year. It means you have to be playing consistently well throughout the entire season, really not having any too many fallbacks, or God forbid injuries.
“But he’s definitely matured a lot and results are proving that.”