Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stellar Murray Wins Abu Dhabi - Next Stop Doha...

The tennis season has not officially started yet, but somehow Andy Murray already has victories over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal under his belt, together with a $250,000 cheque. Not bad for a pre-season exhibition event right?!

The world number 4 sent out a warning to his rivals ahead of the Qatar Open (starts tomorrow) when he won the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi by defeating world number 1, Nadal, in the final on Saturday, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Despite it being an unofficial event, the title will give Murray a boost especially that he has a title to defend next week in Doha, where he is joined by the likes of Federer, Nadal and Roddick. The strong player field in Abu Dhabi and the fact that it was the first time the players have played in several weeks, makes this feat a very important one for Murray, who also beat James Blake before Federer and Nadal.

"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 an elated Murray after his victory.

The young Scot will be looking to make some noise at the Australian Open later this month, where he has never surpassed the 4th round. Murray lost in the first round to eventual runner-up, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in Melbourne last year, and lost to Nadal in an epic 5-set match in the fourth round the year before.

I must agree with Nadal, who said of Murray after the final in Abu Dhabi:

"[Murray] played at a very high level and if he keeps it up, he can even win the Australian Open...”

Murray is definitely the one to watch out for this year in Melbourne!

Abu Dhabi was not just good for Murray, but it also assured a returning Nadal, that his knee has fully recovered and that he is ready to compete against the best, and embark on the ever-so-grueling journey of keeping his number one spot in the rankings this season.

"Today was a very good test for the knee... It was two hour 45 minutes of high-quality, and I'm feeling very well. I made some mistakes today but I think that's to be expected after two months out. I think I'm playing well, I did a lot of running and I feel great," said Nadal.

“’s been a great test to prove where my level is at right now”.

Murray starts his title defense campaign in Doha against Spain’s Albert Montanes, while Nadal faces French veteran, Fabrice Santoro. Federer, seeded second, is in Murray’s half of the draw and opens against Potito Starace, while 4th-seeded Roddick, who is a potential semifinal opponent for Nadal, plays Ivan Navarro in the first round. Check full draw here!

Highlights from the Abu Dhabi final

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