By Abigail Hinto
(December 29, 2012) ABU DHABI – In the end, after the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal and the early loss of Andy Murray, Nicolas Almagro proved himself a worthy replacement player to Nadal as he, along with Novak Djokovic treated the fans in Abu Dhabi to the best match of the tournament.
It was an exciting and tight final that both players played with an even mix of light bantering and competitive seriousness.
Djokovic defends his Mubadala World Tennis Championship title 7-6 (4) 6-3 6-4. He now heads to Perth for the Hopman Cup in his continuing preparation for the Australian Open very satisfied with his game and with confidence, surprised after his semifinal match that he’s already at the level he feels he needs to be.
“Nico played an amazing game, ” Djokovic said. “He was hitting strong from the baseline and he wasn’t giving me much time. We had a lot of fun on court but we both wanted to win. Maybe if I had made a break in the first set it may have been different and we may have not played for so. He is always a dangerous player to have on court and he is a complete player. It was a close win match and I am very satisfied with how I played.”
“This is a top level event and we all want to see where we are in readiness for the season. This isn’t your standard tournament. We are all in playing to win and prepare for the season ahead but we can still have fun and smiles. I love Abu Dhabi and the fans. Hopefully I’ll be back to defend my title.”
For Almagro, the replacement player, he heads back to Spain to continue his interrupted vacation before finally starting his new season. But despite the interruption, he was very happy and satisfied to have come to Abu Dhabi, happy with the matches he’s played. His main goal now for next year is to qualify for ATP World Tour Finals after just barely missing out this year.
“I played a really good match so I am very happy but at the end of the day he is the winner, he is number one,” noted Almagro. “I try to improve every time I go on court, today was a great test. If I play the same as today throughout the season, I can start thinking big but I will take it step by step. I’m working on my serve. If you serve well you have a good chance and today my serve was better than I expected.”
“I feel so happy I got invited and hopefully the organizers are pleased also. I think it was a great final and a great tournament. Hopefully I’ll have a longer stay in Abu Dhabi if I’m invited back again. But I’m happy and really enjoyed the match with Novak.”
Janko Tipsarevic said after his win over Andy Murray on Thursday at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships that the future of men’s tennis is about being able to transition from defense to offense. According to him, now, even tall players like Berdych, Tsonga and del Potro are very good at defense, where before, big guys were mostly purely offensive players.
On Saturday, Tipsarevic wasn’t playing a tall player, in fact one of the shorter players on tour, but definitely someone who has mastered the art of transitioning from defense to offense. One of the best defenders in the men’s game today, David Ferrer, in his rise to the top and in his consistency to stay there for over five years now, has also been able to add considerable weapons to his game. He can defend, and dictate the rallies with his forehand.
In the third place match, Tipsarevic, for the entire first set was going toe to toe with Ferrer in punishing baseline rallies mixing offense with defense. It was a very tight first set which ended in a tiebreak which Ferrer won 7-4.
The third game in the second set showed what Tipsarevic was talking about regarding transition. Ferrer, scrambling hard, as he usually does, managed to turn a point around to set himself up to put away a winning volley to earn a breakpoint on Tipsarevic’s serve. He eventually converts it for a 2-1 lead when a finally frustrated Tipsarevic went for a backhand down the line winner that landed wide. It was then one-way traffic for Ferrer who seals his semifinal win over Tipsarevic 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Ferrer now heads to Doha for his first official match of the new season very happy with the game he’s played here in Abu Dhabi.
“It was a very close match and I am playing a great player,” Ferrer said. “When I play with Janko it’s always a close battle. It know it’s only early season but for me I try to focus as if it’s a major championship and I’m happy with my performance this weekend.”