Andy Murray is confident he can deliver another devastating hammer blow to world No 1 Rafael Nadal should the two meet again at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event of 2009.
The Scot defeated the French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic champion 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 to clinch the $250,000, winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi exhibition title on Saturday, the day after he had also beaten Roger Federer.
It was world No 4 Murray's second successive win over Nadal after knocking the Spaniard out of the US Open last year.
"When we play in the Australian Open, I know I'll be able to beat him in a tight match," Murray confidently predicted. "It was an awesome way to start the year. It was a long match physically, it didn't feel like an exhibition. Some of the rallies were incredible and I feel really good about the way I played.
"I surprised myself. Every match with Nadal is a tough one. Every time I play the top players, I know I have to work extra hard and play my best tennis if I want to beat them."
Murray now joins Nadal and Federer at the Qatar Open in Doha from Monday, the opening week of the 2009 competitive season.
Nadal, who missed the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai last year because of a knee injury, was playing his first event in more than two months, and was delighted with his game and health.
"Today was a very good test for the knee. It was two hours 45 minutes of high-quality, and I'm feeling very well," said the Spaniard who now has a 5-2 record over Murray.
On Murray, Nadal added: "He was very good towards the end of last year, and he is really playing well right now. I think he has got a great chance in Australia."
"I made some mistakes today but I think that's to be expected after two months out. I think I'm playing well, I did a lot of running and I feel great."
(AFP via China Daily January 5, 2009)