ABU DHABI // "My first serious test of the season" is how he describes it. Organisers, fans and a worldwide television audience, would likely prefer "the perfect start to the New Year".
Rafael Nadal, the world No 1, will today meet Roger Federer, the world No 2, providing the tournament finale organisers of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships have craved since the event's inception in 2008.
Nadal, the reigning champion in Abu Dhabi after defeating Robin Soderling in last year's final, looked comfortable as he dispatched Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4 at Zayed Sports City Tennis Complex to set up the dream climax to the three-day showpiece.
The Spaniard broke Berdych in the ninth game, with the Czech unable to cope with what he would later describe as "incredible tennis". Having sent Nadal scampering wide, the 25-year-old could do little but marvel as the world No 1 volleyed his audacious return back in from the tightest of angles to take the lead. He then closed out the set with ease.
"It's a very good start to the season for me and I played really well," Nadal said. "The forehand worked very well and my movement is getting better and better.
"Tomas started playing great tennis: good serves and very good returns. He had his chances, but I served well and played well on the break points and when I had my chance, I hit an amazing shot."
In the second set, Nadal raced to a 4-1 lead, but Berdych fought hard and broke back. The nine-time grand slam winner, however, was in no mood to relinquish his advantage and, with a thunderous cross-court volley, confirmed his place in today's final.
"I had the match under total control at 4-1, but maybe lost a little bit of concentration," Nadal said.
Nadal said today's 5pm meeting with Federer would pose problems and vowed to play to his maximum in a bid to start 2011 on a high.
"Of course, it will be very difficult," he said. "Roger is one of the greatest in history, if not the best."
He added: "It is an exhibition, yes, but not exactly. It is the first serious test of the year."