Abu Dhabi: Tennis fans in the UAE can look forward to start their New Year with a bang as World No 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal takes on World No 2 Roger Federer in today's $250,000 winner-takes- all Mubadala World Tennis Championship final.
After the 16-time Grand Slam Champion Federer rallied from a set down to score a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 win over world number 5 Robin Soderling, Nadal proved too hot for Tomas Berdych in a 6-4, 6-4 win in the second semifinal at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City.
It was Nadal's third consecutive entry into the final year and the defending champion said he was looking forward to the final against Federer.
"It was a very good match as the first of the year and against a very good opponent like Tomas [Berdych]," the World No 1 player said.
"For me it is an important comeback to Abu Dhabi which is the perfect place to start the season for the players," said Nadal, cheered on by the crowd.
"It is always special to play Roger [Federer] who is probably the best player in history of the sport.
"For me it is a big challenge and I hope it is a good match and the people enjoy it," Nadal, who found his rhythm early and went on to outclass Berdych in a rematch of the Wimbledon final, said.
The first semi-final between Federer and Soderling was a well-contested affair and the Swiss champion avenged his defeat at the hands of Soderling last year at the same stage.
Federer served sharply throughout the first set though he had to fight to survive a break point in the 9th game. But in the tie-breaker Soderling managed to run up a 5-1 lead and take the set.
But after that Federer lifted his game and with Soderling's serves letting him down the Swiss was in control winning the next two sets 6-3, 6-3. Federer said he enjoyed playing in Abu Dhabi.
"It is extremely hard to do all the right things and not taking many chances in the big tournaments.
"So this is an opportunity for me to try out some different things and go after my shots and just play a bit more relaxed and get a clear picture of really what I'm trying to do.
"That's why I really enjoy this event a lot," he said.
Soderling, who takes on Berdych in the match for third place today, said: "I played two good matches, long matches, which is good preparing for Australia where it is five sets."
"I could not have asked for much more.
"Still one more match to play so with the first tournament coming in Brisbane, I think it is great match practice," he added.