Rafael Nadal ready to get 'best preparation' for 2019 season at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship
The Spaniard set for ninth appearance at the tournament in Abu Dhabi, which is held between December 27-29, as he bids for a fifth title
When you think of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) it is hard not to immediately think of Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard was one of the original six participants for the inaugural event when it was launched in January 2009.
He has played in eight of the 10 past editions of the tournament, winning the title a record four times, most recently in December 2016.
The two occasions Nadal was absent, in December 2012 and 12 months ago, it was injury that prevented him from taking his place out on the International Tennis Centre court at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
Why has the MWTC become such an integral part of Nadal's schedule on a yearly basis as he prepares for his ninth appearance at the tournament next week?
"It has always been very helpful for the preparation," he tells The National. "I think it reunites all the best conditions to adapt to the season starting in Melbourne.
"The atmosphere at the tournament is just perfect and it allows me to practice, play competitive tennis and have a good end enjoyable time as well."
Melbourne hosts the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the season, in January, and Nadal's lone major title in Australia came in 2009 when he defeated Roger Federer in a five-set thriller.
This was achieved just weeks after he first played at MWTC, losing to Andy Murray in the final after he had beaten Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals.
While Nadal has not prevailed in Melbourne since, he did reach the final in 2012, 2014 and 2017, and the hard court surface supplied at Zayed Sports City has helped him get his game in good condition.
"I have played many times in Abu Dhabi and the ones I didn’t play it was because I was injured and couldn’t compete at this time of the year," he said.
"I think it is the best preparation for the start of the new season in Australia because you get to play matches at the highest level possible at that time of the year."
The high standard of line-up that the MWTC has consistently assembled has meant Nadal has always been confident of getting competitive match action to prepare himself for the grind of a new season.
As well as on court benefits, Nadal said that it is the environment and the knowledgeable audience that has made him a regular name in Abu Dhabi.
"I have always enjoyed playing in Abu Dhabi and always felt relaxed and happy to play there,” he said. “The crowds do enjoy tennis and as I say I feel comfortable."
Nadal has a bye to the semi-finals of this year's competition, which takes place December 27-29, and he will face the winner of defending champion Kevin Anderson's clash with Hyeon Chung.
The other side of the draw has Dominic Thiem up against Karen Khachinov, with the victor of that encounter going on to face world No 1 Novak Djokovic.
Meanwhile there will be a women's exhibition match for the second successive year.
Serena Williams, who took on Jelena Ostapenko 12 months ago in her first match since becoming a mother, will return to Abu Dhabi on December 27 to take on her older sister Venus.
Tickets start at Dh100 for adults, while children can enter free on the opening day. For more information, visit www.mubadalawtc.com.
Updated: December 20, 2018 12:52 PM