Rafael Nadal practice partner backs Spaniards form in injury comeback – He killed me

Rafael Nadal announces end to 2021 season through injury

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Rafael Nadal’s comeback looks to be in a good place before it’s even started. The Spaniard is making his comeback from a left foot injury at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and is set to face Andy Murray in his first match on Friday (December 17). World No 14 Denis Shapovalov trained with Nadal on Wednesday (December 15) and said he thought the world No 6 felt “pretty good”.

Nadal is making his comeback after ending his 2021 season early with a foot injury.

The 13-time French Open champion suffered a shock loss in the Roland Garros semi-final back in June and then pulled out of Wimbledon and the Olympics, revealing he had aggravated a foot injury during his loss in Paris.

After a short-lived comeback at the ATP 500 in Washington, Nadal announced his decision to shut down his season ahead of the US Open.

He is now making his return at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition, where he will face Andy Murray in Friday’s (December 17) semi-final, after the Brit defeated compatriot Dan Evans in the knockout round.

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Little is known about the Spaniard’s form, as Nadal himself admitted he has no expectations for the early stages of his comeback.

“My only expectation is to be here, to play in front of a great crowd again, to feel myself competing again against great players, and then enjoy. It has been a very tough period of time for me, honestly, so just to be here is great news for me,” he told reporters when arriving in Abu Dhabi.

While the world No 6 has downplayed his hopes for his first match in four months, Shapovalov said Nadal is looking good ahead of his return to competition.

The Canadian is also competing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and defeated Taylor Fritz in 55 minutes in his first match on Thursday (December 16).

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The 22-year-old hit the Abu Dhabi practice courts with Nadal on Wednesday (December 15) and admitted he struggled.

“He killed me on the court yesterday so I think he’s feeling pretty good,” Shapovalov said.

“It’s incredible to be out on the court with him. Every time I’m hitting against him, I’m just like, ‘Damn, this guy’s good’.”

The Canadian’s breakout came in 2017 when he defeated Nadal at the Montreal Masters while just 18 years old and ranked down at world No 143.

Expanding on their practice session in Abu Dhabi, Shapovalov added: “I mean I hit a passing shot yesterday and he just hit a drop volley off of it like it was nothing and I’m like, ‘I wish I could do that’.”

Shapovalov, who has been ranked as high as world No 10, admitted Nadal’s status as a top player showed even on the practice court, as he explained what it was like to hit with the Spaniard away from a competitive environment.

“You really see how great they are when you practise with them,” the 22-year-old said.

“The guy hits the ball so big, he’s so good, he’s got some of the best hands I’ve seen at the net, for me it’s inspiring to practise with guys like this, for my sake to see how I can be better, or how I can improve my game so I can hopefully one day be at their level or be somewhat as good as they are.”

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