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Nadal Beats Federer In Doha Dress Rehearsal

Doha, Qatar

Nadal, Federer© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal and Roger Federer could face each other in the Doha final next week.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will go into the 2011 ATP World Tour season brimming with confidence after beating rival Roger Federer 7-6(4), 7-6(3) Saturday in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

"For both of us, these are the first matches of the season. So it is special for us," said Nadal. "This is the perfect place to start the season here in Abu Dhabi."

Federer, who defeated Robin Soderling in Friday’s semi-finals, lamented, "I never lost my serve, but I still lost the tournament, it's kind of tough. Rafael and myself must have played so many times and 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 two could meet again as early as next week when they star as the top two seeds in Doha at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, one of three ATP World Tour 250 hard court tennis tournaments to mark the start of the new season.

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The 24-year-old Nadal will make his fourth appearance in Doha and will look to make amends for his missed opportunity in the final last year. The Spaniard won the first set 6-0 against Nikolay Davydenko and later held two match points before succumbing to the Russian in three sets. He will open his campaign against Slovakian Karol Beck and is drawn to face fifth-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the quarter-finals.

Federer, who has an 18-3 event record in Doha, faces a qualifier in the first round. The Swiss is chasing a third title in Doha after winning back-to-back crowns in 2005 (d. Ljubicic) and 2006 (d. Monfils); he fell in the semi-finals in the past two years. The first seed Federer could face is No. 6 Viktor Troicki, the man who clinched the Davis Cup for Serbia last month; Troicki meets Sergiy Stakhovsky in a tricky opener.

In the bottom half with Federer is third-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who makes his debut in Doha as he looks to make a strong comeback from the knee injury that marred the second half of his 2010 season. The 2008 Australian Open finalist faces Spain’s Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in the first round.

Defending champion Nikolay Davydenko is seeded fourth and opens his campaign against Italian Fabio Fognini. The Russian clinched his 20th ATP World Tour title in Doha last year and went on to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals (l. to Federer). However, he had dropped to No. 22 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings by the end of the season after fracturing his left wrist in February and struggling to regain his form.

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