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Djokovic downs Almagro to defend Abu Dhabi title

ESPN staff
December 29, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

Novak Djokovic will arrive in Australia with an unbeaten record after defending his Mubadala Tennis Championship title with victory over Nicolas Almagro.

The world No. 1 did not have things all his own way, but came from behind before edging a tight third set to triumph 6-7 6-3 6-4 in Abu Dhabi.

Almagro, a late entrant as a replacement for the sick Rafael Nadal, who has since pulled out of the Australian Open following a virus, took a surprise lead after he won the opening set on a tiebreak.

Djokovic, who had looked mightily impressive when he romped past David Ferrer on Friday, responded immediately as he grabbed an early break in the second set. Although Almagro threatened to claw his way back to level, Djokovic held firm before grabbing another break to clinch the set and force a decider.

It was Djokovic who was forced to soak up the early pressure in the third set - fending off three break points as Almagro started brightly.

The Spaniard then came under fire in the following game as Djokovic looked for a breakthrough, only to see six break points go begging.

Both players tightened up on serve but, just as the match looked set to be decided by a second tiebreak, Almagro faltered and Djokovic took full advantage, breaking in the final game of the match to clinch victory.

While competitive, the match was played in the spirit of an exhibition. After rushing back to chase down a lob, Almagro realised he no chance of reaching Djokovic's smash at the net, so threw his racket across the court in a vain bid to get his racket on the ball, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Djokovic will now fly to Perth for the Hopman Cup, where he will pair up with fellow Serb Ana Ivanovic before the defence of his Australian Open title which begins in Melbourne on January 14.

Earlier in the afternoon, David Ferrer proved too strong for Janko Tipsarevic as he won the third-place play-off. Having been somewhat overrun by Djokovic on Friday, Ferrer edged the opening set tiebreak against a second Serbian opponent and never looked back - eventually claiming a 7-6(4) 6-2 triumph.

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