Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal locked horns for nearly three hours in what was a memorable final to the inaugural Capitala World Championship.
Murray fights off Nadal to take the honours
ABU DHABI // The wonderful Capitala World Championship got the final it deserved last night as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal locked horns for nearly three hours in the first of what promises to be a string of outstanding confrontations over the next few years. Victory and the US$250,000 (Dh918,000) jackpot eventually went to Scotland's rising star Murray, but everybody was a winner in this exciting new sporting venture which is surely now going to be a regular fixture on the calendar for the world's top players.
The 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 result will not go into the official ATP tour record books because the tournament has been launched as an exhibition, but nobody who was lucky enough to have been in the captivated 5,000 crowd would have felt that the treat they were given was anything but serious. The two protagonists were certainly not holding back as they put on an encounter full of high quality tennis. This was a chance to put down a marker for the competitive months ahead of them and Murray, who defeated the world No 2 Roger Federer in thrilling fashion on Friday, administered a repeat dose to the world No 1.
Nadal deposed Federer at the top of the rankings on the strength of his imperious mid-season form last year, which brought him back-to-back grand slams at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and declared before travelling to the UAE that he still regarded the Swiss player as the biggest threat to his status. The Spaniard may want to reconsider that viewpoint after giving his all here yet still failing to find a way past the brilliance of Murray's baseline game.
He was typically gracious in defeat. "I feel good because I felt I played great in my two matches here, but Andy played a little bit better," he said. Murray responded in similar vein as he said: "It was a great match for both of us and the atmosphere out there was really amazing." Murray, who regards the rankings as a secondary issue after his priority of winning his first grand slam - he reached his first final in last year's US Open - may not have to wait long to fulfil his dream if he continues to play like he did here.
The Australian Open, later this month, is an attainable target for the outstanding youngster. As against Federer, Murray will feel he should have won more comfortably, having led by a set and a break, only to play an uncharacteristically sloppy service game to let his opponent off the hook. Nadal then went up a gear as he has so often on his road to the top and fortune and seized his chance to draw level by breaking through the Murray serve again in the 12th game and take the match into its third hour.
Momentum appeared to be with Nadal at that stage but the most entertaining game of the match, the seventh game of the deciding set, proved to be the decisive one . Murray, whose court coverage was exceptional in a series of exhausting rallies, eventually forced Nadal into a crucial forehand error on break point to finally take the lead. That broke the resistance of Nadal and another break in the ninth game brought the contest to a swifter end than had looked likely 15 minutes previously.