Rafael Nadal deemed his unofficial return to competition in Abu Dhabi as a “positive start” after he fell to Andy Murray in a high-quality exhibition match on Friday.
In a battle of two former world number ones, the Scot won 6-3, 7-5 in the semi-final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Nadal, who had played just two matches in six months after a foot injury that ruled him out of Wimbledon and the US Open, was back in action for the first time since August.
“I think I did a lot of things well and other things, of course after a long period of time, I need to recover again, some things that when you’re under competition come automatically,” Nadal said after facing Murray for the first time since 2016.
“Now I have to think more, or you don’t have this extra time to make the right decisions.”
“In general terms it has been a positive match, I even had my chances to win that second set.”
“It’s just a positive start. I played even better than what I thought a few weeks ago.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion says he only started playing practice sets two days ago.
“In Mallorca for the last five months, I played zero of these matches. I just did exercises and something more under control to try and make the normal evolution for the foot,” explained Nadal.
On Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Nadal trained with world No.14 Denis Shapovalov, who was impressed.
“He killed me on the court yesterday so I think he’s feeling pretty good,” said the 22-year-old Canadian.
Another intense session came against world No.5 Andrey Rublev, who said their two-and-a-half-hour hit left him “destroyed”.
Meanwhile, Murray was pleased with his two wins in the Abu Dhabi exhibition so far, having beaten fellow Briton Daniel Evans on Thursday before disposing of Nadal.
Murray put together a strong performance on Friday, serving well and moving comfortably with his metal hip.
“I saw him playing well,” said Nadal. “I think last year he played some good tennis and it seems like he’s able to play more often now with less limitation. I see him moving well.”
Nadal plans to fly to Melbourne later this month to compete in an ATP 250 event ahead of the Australian Open.
There is a vaccine mandate on all players wishing to be part of the action at Melbourne Park in January and Nadal was asked if he was behind such a decision.
“I am not with or without, I am just following what the organisation of health says,” said Nadal.
“I don’t pretend to know more than the authorised people say.”