ABU DHABI, Dec 29: Novak Djokovic got his season off to a perfect start by defeating Nicolas Almagro 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament.
Djokovic had looked in impressive early season form in Friday's semi-finals, destroying world No.5 David Ferrer in straight sets, while Almagro, a late replacement for the injured Rafael Nadal, was taken all the way by Janko Tipsarevic.
But it was the Spaniard who edged a close first set 7/4 on a tiebreaker, with Djokovic, the winner last year, looking listless at times.
The world No.1 put that setback quickly behind him as he broke Almagro to start the second set, but he failed to turn that into a 2-0 lead as Almagro broke back to level in the next game.
A double-fault from the Spaniard though saw the Serb take back the advantage and this time he held firm to level the set scores.
The decider went with serve until the 10th game when Almagro served up three straight unforced errors to hand Djokovic the win.
"It was a fantastic experience again for me coming to Abu Dhabi. This is a very nice tournament, you always get great matches, very tough matches against top opponents, and great attendance also," said world number one Djokovic.
Almagro added: "I have had a lot of fun and I have to thank the organisers for calling me in the last minute because it is amazing to be here."
The match for third place played earlier was won by Spain's Ferrer as he defeated Tipsarevic of Serbia 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
All four players will head out for Australia to complete their preparations for the Australian Open which gets under way in Melbourne on January 14 where Djokovic will be the defending champion.