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Murray battles to win over Nadal

Andy Murray
Murray now heads to Doha to start the season proper at the Qatar Open

Andy Murray completed his preparation for the new tennis season with a hugely encouraging win over world number one Rafael Nadal in Abu Dhabi.

The British number one followed up Friday's defeat of Roger Federer with a 6-4 5-7 6-3 win over Nadal in the final of the exhibition tournament.

Murray collects US$250,000 for winning the event but beating Nadal and Federer will be of greater satisfaction.

"It was a tough match, he made me do a lot of running," said the Scot.

"In the first game of the year you're going to feel it a bit, but I thought it was a great match from both of us."

While the victory will not count towards Murray's world ranking or his head-to-head record against Nadal, it will give him a major boost ahead of the season proper, which begins next week.

He has a good chance to win in Australia

Nadal on Murray
Having beaten Federer for the fifth time in the semi-finals he took the opportunity to rack up a second straight win over Nadal, following his US Open semi-final victory in September.

The Spaniard retains an impressive 5-1 lead over Murray in competitive meetings but the Briton is very much a contender for the major titles now, starting with this month's Australian Open.

Murray could have finished off Nadal earlier in Abu Dhabi after breaking twice on his way to winning the first set, and moving ahead with another break in game five of the second set.

Victory was within sight but Nadal stepped up a gear and broke straight back with a vicious forehand that Murray could not control.

The British number one began to struggle with his serve and Nadal took full advantage, breaking again in game 12 with some punishing hitting from the baseline.

It was the Spaniard who looked to have the momentum early in the decider but Murray managed to stay in touch, and the closing stages saw both players hitting the heights.

A breathtaking seventh game saw both men firing spectacular winners but Murray had the edge, the Scot breaking after making winners off the ground, at the net and with a beautiful lob.

Another Nadal fightback seemed inevitable but Murray retained the initiative with a solid service game and, after a second winning lob in quick succession sent Nadal sprawling, the British number one sealed victory.

Asked about his chances of a first Grand Slam title in Australia, Murray responded: "That's what I'm aiming for.

"I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance."

And Nadal admitted: "I played a very good match, but Andy played a little bit better. I congratulate him on his victory. He has a good chance to win in Australia."

Murray now heads to next week's Qatar Open in Doha, along with Nadal and Federer, where he will face Albert Montanes of Spain in round one as the ATP season gets under way.

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see also
Murray v Nadal as it happened
03 Jan 09 |  Tennis
Tennis stars head for the sun
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Murray v Federer as it happened
02 Jan 09 |  Tennis
Murray signs with Beckham agent
30 Dec 08 |  Tennis
Murray's magical year
16 Nov 08 |  Tennis

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