Djokovic beats Ferrer in Abu Dhabi

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Djokovic beats Ferrer in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Novak Djokovic showed he remains the player to beat in 2012, routing David Ferrer 6-2, 6-1 Saturday to win the World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament.

The top-ranked Djokovic also beat Gael Monfils and then routed Roger Federer en route to his first Abu Dhabi title.

“It’s always great to win a title. This is the best way to start the 2012 season,’’ Djokovic said. “I must say I’m really happy with the way I’m playing. Playing against the top players in the world in this way gives me a lot of confidence.’’

The fifth-ranked Ferrer had upset second-ranked Rafael Nadal in the semis but couldn’t find an answer for Djokovic, who broke the Spaniard five times and took 3-0 leads in both sets.

Earlier, Nadal shook off an ailing shoulder to beat Federer 6-1, 7-5 to claim third place in the $250,000 winner-takes-all six-man tournament which is treated as a warm-up for the new ATP season.

Djokovic said he was feeling better than he did at this stage last year and that he was “surprised” by how well his preparations were going, coming off a year in which he won three Grand Slam titles and amassed a 70-6 record. The 24-year-old Serb struggled toward the end of the 2011 season, with four of his six losses coming after the U.S. Open as fatigue and minor injuries caught up with him. He came into Abu Dhabi saying he was still not 100 percent match fit, but said he now feels ready to defend his title at the Australian Open next month.

“Usually at this stage, you are trying to find your speed on the court, agility, just dynamics of every stroke,’’ Djokovic said. “But I found it already, to be honest, right away after the first match. ... It’s a great way for me to prepare for Melbourne.’’

The fifth-ranked Ferrer conceded he was outmatched.

“He was better than me. He played a really good match,’’ Ferrer said. “I tried, but maybe I played at a deficit all the time. I fought but with Djokovic at the moment it’s difficult to beat him.’’

Nadal has been nursing a sore left shoulder since the end of last season and looked out of sorts in his one-sided loss to Ferrer on Friday. But the 25-year-old Spaniard showed signs he is returning to old self against Federer. He took a 3-0 lead in the first set and was never seriously threatened by his Swiss rival, who lost to Djokovic in the semifinals in only 44 minutes.

The third-ranked Federer struggled with unforced errors and an inconsistent serve but put up a harder fight in the second set until Nadal clinched the win with a blistering forehand into the corner.

“It was a positive match,’’ said Nadal, who plans to take a break after the Australian Open to rest his shoulder. “I played better than yesterday and that was the most important.’’

Federer downplayed the two losses this week, insisting he was feeling good and that the time on the court will serve him well ahead of the first tournament of the new ATP season, in Doha, Qatar, next week.

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