Britain’s Andy Murray defeated world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the final of the Abu Dhabi exhibition on Saturday to score a crucial blow ahead of the Australian Open.
The world No. 4 had a double reason to celebrate his 2 hour, 43 minute win with this three-day event representing the first time he had beaten both Nadal and world No. 2 Roger Federer in the same tournament.
Murray will get the chance to repeat his achievement when he joins Nadal and Federer at the Qatar Open in Doha from today, the opening week of this year’s competitive season.
The Scotsman also picked up the winner-takes-all check of US$250,000 for his win over Nadal, the reigning French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic champion.
“It is a great start to the year. I worked very hard on my fitness and game in November and December and both Rafa and Roger played great tennis, so I am delighted that I could beat them,” said the 21-year-old who had defeated Federer in the semi-finals on Friday. “Right now, all I can say is that I am feeling very tired. It was a tough match and he made me run a lot. This is just the first week of the year and you do feel it in the body.”
Nadal, who missed the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai last year because of a knee injury, was playing his first event in more than two months and was delighted with his game and health.
“Today was a very good test for the knee. It was a 2 hours, 45 minutes of high quality and I’m feeling very well,” said the Spaniard, who now has a 5-2 record over Murray.
On Murray, Nadal said: “He was very good toward the end of last year and he is really playing well right now. I think he has got a great chance in Australia. I thought I played very good, but obviously, Andy played a little better.”
Murray took the first set after breaking Nadal on his third break point in the third game and, in almost an action replay of the opener, the Scotsman broke in the fifth game of the second set to go 3-2 up.
But Nadal came back in sensational fashion from 15-40 down in the sixth game and won it on the first break point to even the scores at 3-3. He then took the next service game to love. He had two set points which he converted immediately to take the second set 7-5.
The first seven games of the final set was tennis of the highest quality from both players. Almost each game went the distance and involved spectacular rallies and amazing shots.
Murray broke in the seventh game, which lasted 14 minutes, on his second break point. Once Nadal lost that game, Murray quickly closed out the affair by breaking him again in the ninth game.