Abu Dhabi: If not the greatest rivalry in tennis the Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer chronicles are perhaps the most compelling.
Fans in Abu Dhabi had the opportunity to see these two great champions slug it out in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship yesterday before Nadal's power, pace and control brought down his deadliest foe in a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) victory. In the process he picked up a winner's purse of $250,000 (Dh920,000).
Nadal, who in less than a month's time will be bidding to lay his hands on the Australian Open trophy to complete a Grand Slam (non-calendar year), gave himself the perfect boost in what he described as the "perfect place" to start the new season.
Finally, like in several previous encounters between the two modern day greats, it came down to a few points in the tie-breakers, and Federer lamented this aspect of "losing the tournament despite not losing a single serve."
"For both of us, these are the first matches of the season. So it is special for us. This is the perfect place to start the season here in Abu Dhabi," said Nadal after lifting the beautiful trophy, his second successive win here at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, which came in one hour and 50 minutes of exhilarating tennis.
"I finished the last season playing really well. I lost against Roger (Federer) in the final of London. I think he played amazing in that tournament, but I think I still played really well in London," said the Spaniard, who now flies to Doha en route to Australia where the defending champion is none other than Federer.
Commenting on the prospects of holding all four majors, Nadal said: "That is far away. Right now I am focused on trying to play a good tournament in Doha next week and after that we will see what happens in Australia. Doha is going to be a really difficult tournament and I have to arrive there playing my best tennis like here.
"In Australia, I will have to see my chances in the last rounds. After that we will see what happens," the world No 1 said.
Federer, who finally made it to the final here in his third attempt, said: "I never lost my serve but I still lost the tournament, its kind of tough. Tennis can be tough sometimes.
"Rafael and myself must have played so many times it has come down to a few shots here and there. He is an amazing shot-maker. Me as well but today he got the better of me," the winner of 16 Grand Slam titles said.
"I though it was a great match and it has been a pleasure being here in Abu Dhabi for the third consecutive year. I really enjoyed myself here again," Federer said. "I am already excited about 2011. I think we are going to have a good season. And people like Rafael will push me to become a better player too."