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Nole triumphs in Abu Dhabi

AFP-JIJI

Novak Djokovic saw off David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday and wasted no time looking forward to the season ahead with his new coach, Boris Becker.

The world No. 2 was just too strong for the Spanish world No. 3 and stormed to victory in the exhibition title for the third time in a row.

It was also his fifth straight title since losing the U.S. Open final to Rafael Nadal — and nothing looks likely to stop him going into next month’s Australian Open, where he is aiming for a fourth consecutive title.

He also has his sights set on wresting back the top ranking from Nadal.

The 26-year-old Serbian hired former Wimbledon champion Becker to improve his game after a disappointing 2013 by his own high standards.

Becker has said he will spend around 20 weeks per year on the ATP Tour with Djokovic and says his young son Amadeus and wife Lilly will join him on occasion.

With Becker courtside, Djokovic overcame an early deficit and said: “I have to say I’m really glad to have Boris on the team.

“It’s great that it started with winning this trophy right here. Hopefully, we can win more.”

Asked what he expected Becker to bring to the table, Djokovic laughed. “We’ll see, ask me in half a year,” he was quoted as saying by The National. “It’s still too early to say where he is going to take us.”

Including Davis Cup matches and two unofficial wins in Abu Dhabi, Djokovic has won 26 matches in a row since losing to Nadal in the U.S. Open final.

Djokovic went into the final with an 11-5 record against Ferrer. Including previous wins in this competition against the Spaniard, which do not count on official statistics, he has now beaten Ferrer eight times in a row.

Ferrer admitted he hadn’t done enough to upset the odds.

“With Nole (Djokovic), I need to do more,” he said.

In the day’s other match, Nadal beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 6-3 to take third place.

Having played Nadal, Djokovic and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the tournament this week, Tsonga was asked who had impressed him the most.

“I would say Novak, he’s impressive,” replied the world No. 10.

Ahead of next month’s Australian Open, the rest have been warned.

Murray taking it slow

Doha AFP-JIJI

Record-breakers Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray could begin the new year by forging another link in the chain of coincidences which have marked their careers.

The eight-time French Open champion and the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years could well meet in the later stages of the Qatar Open, which starts on Monday.

They also begin 2014 with Murray’s short-term prospects mirroring Nadal’s uncertain predicament here a year ago, when a long absence and persistent knee injuries cast a cloud over his future.

Now it is the Scot who has not competed on the ATP Tour for four months, leaving him with doubts and fears about how well he will recover from his back problem.

The Spaniard had been sidelined for seven months when he belatedly withdrew from the 2013 Qatar Open, triggering a fusillade of inaccurate predictions that he might never fully recover.

Nadal missed the Australian Open two weeks later but responded with one of the greatest comebacks of all time, going on to regain the world No. 1 ranking in the final week of the season.

Murray would love to make a comparable recovery, especially after having unloaded one of the biggest psychological burdens in tennis history, and taking a bold decision to have his operation only eight weeks afterward.

At the moment, though, the only evidence comes from Murray having survived an exhibition with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga two days ago, apparently without physical ill effects. The two-set loss was secondary.

“I can’t expect to feel great for long periods of matches straight away — it was a good workout,” Murray said then. “You want to play your best but you need to be realistic and patient.

“Moving is the most important thing. I just need to be able to do it for a longer period. I just felt like I hadn’t played a match for a while.”

It remains to be seen whether Murray will be fit enough for the Australian Open, though there seems little doubt that Nadal will be planning a major assault on the year’s first Grand Slam, a title he has not won for five years.