Rafael Nadal has a shorter than usual offseason this year but he believes he can work it to his advantage as he looks to carry his Davis Cup-winning form into 2020.
The world No.1 led Spain to the Davis Cup title just over three weeks ago then went on a short break before beginning his preparations for the new season.
On Friday, Nadal picked up right where he left off as he surprised himself by putting together a devastating 6-1, 6-3 performance against Russian world No.17 Karen Khachanov in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi.
“That was a good masterclass. Rafa needs to tell me how much I need to pay him,” Khachanov joked after the match.
Nadal feels it was a victory that proved he can keep up his momentum from his strong finish to the 2019 season well into the new year.
“I was a little bit surprised the way that I played. I have been playing well at the end of the season. And it was just 15 days ago, a little bit more that I was winning the Davis Cup with Spain with the rest of the guys, so things went quick,” Nadal told reporters in the UAE capital on Friday.
“And at some point it’s negative that we didn’t have a lot of time (between seasons) but on the other hand I finished playing well and that helps to keep going playing well.”
Nadal’s reward is a Saturday showdown with ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 earlier in the day.
The 21-year-old Tsitsipas, ranked No.6 in the world, told the press ahead of the action in Abu Dhabi that one his main goals for 2020 is to end the year among the top three, which means he would need to squeeze out one of the current ‘Big Three’ of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer.