The Mubadala World Tennis Championship, now in its fourth year, is one of the region’s most eagerly anticipated sporting events, bringing six of the world’s top tennis players to the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex in Zayed Sports City from December 29-31. We caught up with the number two seed and reigning champion, 25-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal, to see what’s in store for him at this year’s competition.
How does Mubadala help you in terms of preparing for the Australian Open?
Abu Dhabi is a great way to start the season and prepare for the tournaments at the beginning of the year, especially the Australian Open. The exhibition format allows us to compete at the highest level, but without the pressure of ranking points.
Do you like the format of the exhibition, where you are exempt until the semi-finals?
Yes, I like it a lot – it allows us to play exactly the amount of tennis we need, without exposing too much of our physical condition. It’s perfect.
How do the courts in Abu Dhabi compare with those in Melbourne?
They’re pretty similar, and that’s ideal for the preparation of the first grand slam of the year.
Which of your previous grand-slam triumphs gave you the greatest satisfaction and why?
I think they all have a special meaning and they were achieved in special circumstances. It would be unfair to point out one in particular.
How long do you think you can continue playing at the top level, considering the problems you’ve had with your knees recently?
I’m feeling great now and playing good tennis. As long as I’m healthy and able to compete at the highest level, I’ll be around. Hopefully I’ll be able to play for a long time!
What do you do in your spare time to relax? Do you always head home to Spain?
I try to be at home in Mallorca and enjoy my time with my family and friends. For me it is the best time and I enjoy every minute of it.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a sportsman – I wanted to be a tennis player or even a football player. I’m happy that I ended up doing what I always wanted to do.
What are the worst aspects of the pressures of fame?
I don’t really have that pressure. Maybe because I’m from Mallorca and that’s a quiet place. I might feel it more when I go to big cities. But I try to enjoy it and give as much back as possible to fans and people in general. I feel I’m very fortunate.
You’re known for awesome groundstrokes, speed and power. What do you think is the best part of your game?
I can’t really say. I think tennis is a very difficult sport. It is a very complete sport and you have to be very strong, both mentally and physically, and have a high level of ability and skill.
What kind of food do you usually eat before a match?
I like pasta, plain with butter and olive oil. Maybe also with some fish. I try to eat healthy and not too much – it is better to eat bigger but fewer meals.
How much do you train?
It depends on the period of the season. I could be training up to seven hours a day in the pre-season, but less during tournaments, where I normally practise for two to three hours a day on days that I’m not playing.
Other than playing tennis, what do you do to keep in shape?
Tennis keeps me pretty much in shape, but I also enjoy playing football, golf or fishing – although fishing is clearly just for fun, not to stay in shape!
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship takes place at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on December 29-31. Tickets start at Dhs100 for day one and Dhs300 for the final. For more info, see www.mubadalawtc.com; to buy tickets, visit www.thinkflash.ae or call 800 35274.