ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — 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.
"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."
Earlier, Rafael Nadal overcame an ailing shoulder to beat Federer 6-1, 7-5 for third place in the $250,000 winner-takes-all six-man tournament, a warmup for the ATP season.
The fifth-ranked Ferrer had upset second-ranked Nadal in the semis but had no answer for Djokovic, who broke the Spaniard five times and took 3-0 leads in both sets.
Djokovic is coming off a year in which he won three Grand Slam titles and had a 70-6 record. He says he is feeling better than he did at this stage last year and he is surprised by how well his preparations are going.
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 to Abu Dhabi saying he was still not fully fit, but 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."
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 had 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 44 minutes.
The third-ranked Federer struggled with unforced errors and an inconsistent serve. His game improved in the second set, but Nadal ended the match 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 the time on court will serve him well ahead of the season's first tournament in Qatar next week.
"It's about getting ready and feeling fine out there and enjoying a great atmosphere here and having the chance to play world class players," Federer said. "Trying a few things, see where you are at and see where the other guys are at."
"Obviously, I could tell Novak and Rafa are playing really well," he added. "That is not a surprise to me. I expected them to be in good shape for next year and they proved that to me this weekend."
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