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Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

Murray finds form in 2009 opener

Andy Murray
Murray was in excellent form on the backhand side especially

Andy Murray began his final preparation for the 2009 ATP season with victory over American James Blake in Abu Dhabi, setting up a clash with Roger Federer.

The British number one came through 6-2 6-2 in his opening match at the three-day exhibition in the UAE.

Murray will now face world number two Federer in the semi-finals on Friday.

Federer and world number one Rafael Nadal had byes into the last four, with Nadal to face Nikolay Davydenko after the Russian beat Andy Roddick 6-4 6-4.

"I was playing James for the first time in three years and I expected it to be a tough match," said Murray, "but I played much better than I expected to.

"This is the first match of the year and I am delighted with how I played."

I am sure I will have a fun match with Roger tomorrow

Andy Murray
Murray was playing Blake for only the second time, with the American having won their first encounter on clay in Hamburg in 2006.

But the Scot is a much-improved player now and began the season in the style of a world number four, breaking serve immediately.

A flicked backhand cross-court winner and a powerful forehand hooked down the line gave Murray a double break for 4-1 and he served out the set in 23 minutes without facing a single break point.

Blake, the world number 10, played a woeful game to give up serve to love at the start of the second set and wasted a break-back chance in the following game.

Murray, 21, was in full flow now and his superb returning overwhelmed Blake, the Scot sealing yet another break with a delicate backhand lob over the helpless American.

He served out the match comfortably enough and will now take on Federer when the Swiss begins his year in Friday's semi-final.

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Murray has a 4-2 record against Federer and won three of their four matches in 2008, but lost in the US Open final.

"It will be a fun match," said Murray. "I played him a few times last year and played well each time against him.

"This is a great preparation for the Australian Open, all the top players are here and I'll try and keep the same form tomorrow as I did today."

Murray will head to Doha, along with Federer and Nadal, when the ATP season begins next Monday, with the Australian Open getting under way on 19 January.

Earlier, Roddick suffered a comprehensive straight-sets defeat in his first match under the guidance of Larry Stefanki.

The former coach of Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman and Marcelo Rios could do nothing to help the American overcome an impressive Davydenko.

"Nikolay played a great game," said Roddick. "I could have done better but this was just my first match of the year. Hopefully, the game will be much better than what it was today."



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