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Rublev takes title at Mubadala Championship, Andy Murray runner-up and Rafa Nadal Winless In Abu Dhabi

By Ricky Dimon

With results suggesting that he ran out of steam in the second half of the 2021 campaign, Andrey Rublev seemingly could have used an extended offseason.

Instead, Rublev had the shortest break of anyone on the entire tour. But it may not matter.

The 24-year-old, who helped Russia clinch the Davis Cup title on December 5, was back in action at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on December 17. Eleven days off apparently were enough, as Rublev defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals and then beat Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6(2) in the championship match.

“It’s my third time here and I always love coming,” the world No. 5 said afterward. “You get quality matches against top players. It’s great to have these types of matches ahead of the new season, that’s why we are here; it’s great preparation.

“It’s a huge pleasure to share a court with Andy. He is a special player; a true legend. It was a great match. I think the spectators enjoyed it and that is what we are playing tennis for.”

It was a positive week for Murray, as well. The 34-year-old Scot played basically every ATP tournament he could this fall but had little more than a third-round performance in Indian Wells and a quarterfinal finish in Stockholm to show for his efforts. Abu Dhabi wins over Dan Evans and Rafael Nadal plus a competitive match against Rublev should give him some confidence heading into 2022.

“I always enjoy coming back,” Murray reflected. “I played three really good matches, but Andrey played really well; he has a very good game. I’ll take the positives. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my week.

“I’m looking forward. I’m healthy; I just need to find a way of turning things my way in matches against the biggest players and having good runs at the biggest tournaments. It’s a fantastic way to get ready for the new season.”

In his comeback from a foot injury that had sidelined him since Washington, D.C. this past summer, Nadal lost to Murray 6-3, 7-5 in the semis and fell to Shapovalov in a tiebreaker for the third set in the third-place match.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.