Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal: Head-to-Head in Abu Dhabi

JA AllenSenior Writer IDecember 23, 2009

Starting Dec. 31, 2009 the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal renews itself, shedding the remnants of the old year, and readying for a new year and a new decade.

Abu Dhabi—who else rejoices at the prospect of seeing real tennis being played again?

This is the start of the road leading up to the Australian Open where unexpected results steal headlines and make the tournament “Down Under” one of the most anticipated tennis extravaganzas of the year!

Granted the six male tennis players (Federer, Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga, Robin Soderling and Stanislav Wawrinka) engage in an “exhibition” in Abu Dhabi; still, though, it is live tennis and the players are still trying to win the tournament. 

It will be refreshing to read about real tennis instead of lists upon lists discussing the past and its reported relevance upon future tennis events.  

The tournament itself is relatively new, dreamed up by the corporate world to promote tennis in the Middle East. In Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates this event, along with tournaments in Dubai, Qatar and Doha, receive worldwide attention and coverage as well as exposure for the Middle East culture.  

It provides a tune-up for the regular tennis season which follows quickly as 2010 gets underway

Four of the six players will take the court on Dec. 31 with the tournament ending on Jan. 2, 2010. The top two seeded players, Federer and Nadal, receive a first round bye.  

Last year the inaugural Capitala World Tennis Championship was held on Jan. 1-3 with Andy Murray winning the championship by defeating James Blake, Federer, and fellow finalist Nadal. Nadal overcame Davydenko, who defeated Andy Roddick to make it into the second round.  

Murray’s performance in 2009 at Abu Dhabi and then next at the Qatar Exxon-Mobil Open where he won the title—led to intense speculation that the Scot was the likely candidate to win the 2009 Australian Open. Murray unfortunately ran into the red hot Fernando Verdasco and was taken out in the third round in Melbourne.

This year the tournament will commence with Soderling facing Swiss No. 2 Wawrinka for the honor of meeting Federer in the second round. In the other match Tsonga will meet Davydenko to determine which one of them will face Nadal the next day.  

Last year’s winner Murray will not be on hand to defend his crown. He will be representing Great Britain in the Hopman Cup teamed with up-and-coming Brit Laura Robson.  

It will be a very interesting peek at the usual suspects. Will Davydenko continue the blistering pace he exhibited at the ATP World Tour Finals in London by winning this event and stunning the tennis world once again?  

Or, will the promise of Tsonga finally materialize in 2010? Tsonga has been on everyone’s “soon to be anointed” list for so long, he may soon grow stale.

Will Soderling amass another amazing upset by taking out Federer, who he has never defeated, in the second round. That assumes, of course, that he can overcome newlywed Wawrinka.  

Wawrinka may not have found his “happily married” legs as of yet. His wife is expected to deliver their first child at approximately the same time as the championship match. It is hard to believe that he can concentrate long enough to take out Soderling.

Both Nadal and Federer have much to prove, but especially the Spaniard who spent much of 2009 injured. His depleted rankings (losing his hold on No. 1), and his diminished physique suffered at the end of the season.  

Nadal did, however, seem to find rejuvenation on the home soil—clay—while playing for world champion Spain in the Davis Cup Finals.  

For Nadal, everything must be looking up after 2009.  

For Federer, the year is another layer of icing on his cake. The man from Switzerland retains his competitive spirit and his desire to win the big tournaments. After all, there are records left to be conquered. 

The Swiss Maestro is waiting and the first goal on his carefully filled plate is to win this exhibition in Abu Dhabi. It represents a chance that eluded him last year.  

After Abu Dhabi both Federer and Nadal head off to the Qatar Exxon-Mobil Open in Doha to fine-tune their games just before the Australian Open. Finally....