ABU DHABI // A jubilant Andy Murray was in no doubt about the worthiness of his conquest of the world No 1 Rafael Nadal in Saturday's tremendous conclusion to the Capitala World Championship. A superb performance that will not gain official recognition from the ATP tour's statisticians will reverberate around the world as the young Scotsman endorsed opinions formed last season that he is on the verge of becoming the next big name in the men's game.
Beaten in five of his previous six encounters with Nadal, Murray served notice that he is no longer prepared to settle for second best and intends to become a serious threat to the Spaniard's hold on the top ranking during the next 12 months of competitive action across the globe. He had issued the same warning to the world No 2 Roger Federer in an equally enthralling semi-final victory. "I know for sure that this was a serious match and was played out like a normal tour final," said Murray after edging out Nadal in three pulsating sets 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. "We both fought hard to win it and we both wanted it badly.
"The result gives me belief that I can win tight matches against Rafa and it will give me greater confidence if we meet in the Australian Open." Murray's ranking of four means that cannot happen until at least the semi-finals in Melbourne when the event starts later this month, but Nadal, who is seeking a first title in Australia to those he has from Roland Garros and Wimbledon, has taken due note of his conqueror's display.
Nadal, who was pleased with the way he returned to action after ending last season frustratingly sidelined by injury and fatigue, was far from a sore loser of a match that could have gone either way up to the decisive moment in the seventh game of the final set when Murray broke his service. "I played a very good match, but Andy played a little bit better," said the Spaniard generously. "I congratulate him on his victory. He has a good chance to win in Australia."
Informed of that compliment, Murray responded: "That's what I'm aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance. "I know that in matches against the top players it can all come down to one or two points, like it did here. You have to take your opportunities when they come. "Every time I play against Roger, Rafa and Novak I know that to beat them I have to play some of my best tennis.
"If I don't play well I am going to lose. If I do play well then there is a good chance that I'm going to win the match. That knowledge gives me great confidence for the rest of the year." Murray received his first trophy of 2009 from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, who was accompanied in the capacity crowd by Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Security.