December 18, 2021
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal served up a Christmas treat that augers well for Wimbledon 2022.
Both men have put their injury concerns behind them. And confident Murray even hinted that he intends to play for years to come.
This magnificent occasion was exactly what we wanted to see as we approach the turn of the year.
It conjured up beautiful gladiatorial images with the European summer in mind.
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal fit and hungry for glory at Wimbledon 2022.
That new and joyous likelihood is a Christmas present in itself!
The Brit came out on top in Abu Dhabi. He beat Nadal 6-3, 7-5 in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship semi-final.
The match may only have had exhibition status but it meant so much more to both men.
Earlier in the week, Murray had appeared close to tears when he realised he would face his old adversary once more.
The superstar pair had played each other since before they were even teenagers. Now at last here was another chance to resume the rivalry.
All the setbacks Murray’s troublesome hip had given him over the years and all the painful comebacks suddenly seemed worth it in that moment.
This was a fresh clash of the titans and this was not a match Murray intended to lose
And the determined Scot showed superior fitness and will to win when it mattered.
He displayed more aggression and made fewer errors in a wonderful contest.
But Nadal appeared to be finding his rhythm and renowned power in the second set. Andy countered with superb returning and his persistent, probing variety ultimately carried the day.
There were also moments of sheer brilliance that rolled back the years.
One Murray backhand came from such an outrageously acute angle that Nadal was simply dumbfounded.
Andy had the staying power against a man playing his first comeback match since sustaining a foot injury.
The result scarcely seemed to matter at the end, however.
What was more significant was the love between two sporting giants and the confidence they can now carry into the future.
Who wouldn’t love to see Andy Murray play Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2022?
The way they talked after this match, there is every chance they will do battle again at the home of tennis in a few months’ time.
Murray said: ‘Me and Rafa played so many tough matches over the years. We’d not played for five or six years and it shows both of us have gone through a lot of injury troubles and issues.
‘And it’s great just to have the opportunity to be on court with him again.
‘When I was younger I certainly wasn’t appreciating it as much as I do now. I’m so happy that Rafa is back and I look forward to the next few years.’
Nadal saluted Murray’s return to top form. And we all know he could go deep at Wimbledon 2022 after what he just achieved.
Rafa said: ‘Honestly super-happy to see Andy playing at this great level after all the things he went through, so well done.
‘For me, at least it’s a comeback. And it was not a bad match for me. It’s been a long time without being on court for a professional match, so positive feelings.’
Murray was through to face world number five Andrey Rublev in the weekend’s final. But that one hardly seemed to matter any more.
This was the big one. Two of the famous Big Four. Murray v Nadal. This was the real showpiece.
This is just the kind of classic clash we want to see at Wimbledon 2022.
And you know what? It looks as though all our Wimbledon 2022 dreams can now come true.