Following the conclusion of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday, here is a look at some of the talking points from the event in Abu Dhabi with a look ahead to the 2017 campaign.
Nadal can still compete
Before the start of the tournament, Rafael Nadal had dismissed suggestions he could be in his final season given the battered state of his body.
“I believe that I can compete for important things in the next three years,” he said.
Given his performance across the three matches and, especially, the damage his forehands caused in those duels, it is hard to disagree.
He was dismissive against Tomas Berdych in his opening match, in control against Milos Raonic in the semis and then at his battling best in the final against David Goffin.
“I know I have been practising so hard in Mallorca, but arriving for the tournament, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Nadal said after his triumph.
“I felt I was playing well and these three matches confirm that.”
Confirmation for him, should be a confirmation for us.
Murray now the hunted
Until now, Andy Murray was the hunter and Novak Djokovic the hunted, but the roles will be reversed now.
Murray will have to contend with not just Djokovic but a pack of hunters, including players such as Goffin, who will take the court against him with nothing to lose.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Murray said, when asked about the challenges he faces as the hunted now.
“I guess I will get a better sense of that maybe at the Australian Open or the beginning of this year. At the end of last year, I played the ATP World Tour Finals as No1 and I didn’t think of that at all. So, I am not sure how it will affect me.”
It will be interesting to see how Murray copes, but given his past emotional outbursts on the court, coach Ivan Lendl will have a big job trying to keep him calm.
Raonic is still work in progress
For someone who is often described as the head of the next generation, Milos Raonic has a pretty ordinary record against the Big Four.
The Canadian has yet to win a match against Djokovic (0-8). He is 3-9 against Roger Federer, with two of those wins coming in 2016.
Against Nadal, he is 1-6 in official matches, and, of course, has lost both his matches here in Abu Dhabi against the Spaniard.
Raonic had started well against Andy Murray, winning three of their first four official matches, but now has lost eight on the trot, including twice at the grand slams last year. He also lost to Murray on Saturday here.
“I guess I am missing just a little bit of being mentally strong at some points,” Raonic, 26, said.
“I think I am doing a lot of things well. It’s just taking that step forward, mentally and physically.”
That “step”, then, stands between Raonic and grand slam success. The sooner he takes it, the better.
Goffin can keep his 2016 success going
Goffin did not seem overtly thrilled with his win over Murray on Friday. “Because maybe Andy would have managed differently if it was a serious match,” said the Belgian world No 11.
True, these were not official matches, but the fact is: Goffin is the first man to beat Murray since Juan Martin Del Potro in the Davis Cup semi-final in mid-September.
Goffin also showed his mettle in the final against Nadal, harrying the Spaniard and audaciously passing him at times.
His quick feet are a definite asset and so are the lighting forehands. He has the ability to switch gears unnoticed and has been working on improving his first serve percentage.
If he can do that, then he can be a formidable opponent. So watch out for the diminutive Belgian in 2017.
Berdych needs a Plan B
True, the season has not even started yet and two matches in Abu Dhabi is too few a sampling to form opinions.
Still, Berdych just did not look very convincing in his two matches here, and nothing like the Top 10 player that he is. The Czech was brushed away by Nadal and when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got going in the second set of their play-off for fifth place, Berdych had no answers.
Berdych is playing in Doha next and his week in the Qatari will provide a better picture, but if his two matches here are any indication, he needs to bring that Plan B out of the drawer.
His Plan A looks a bit jaded.
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