No. 1 Djokovic retains Abu Dhabi title
Top player heads to Australia with momentum
Novak Djokovic began his Abu Dhabi title defense talking about donkey cheese, but he ended it with the perfect start to his preseason preparations.
The world No. 1 retained his title in the Middle East exhibition event on Saturday, beating 11th-ranked Nicolas Almagro in a three-set final that should have blown away any remaining rustiness following his demolition of another Spaniard, David Ferrer, in the semis.
Djokovic will now head to Australia for another warmup event, the mixed teams Hopman Cup, where he will line up with glamor girl Ana Ivanovic in Serbia's opening rubber against Italy's Andreas Seppi and Francesca Schiavone on Monday.
The 25-year-old on Thursday denied claims that he has bought the world's entire supply of donkey cheese for his restaurant business back home.
"I did not expect this story was going to get so much attention, and everywhere in the world too," he told the Gulf News ahead of his first match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
"There is a certain farm in Serbia that produces it and, as I understand it, it is the only farm in the world to do so, which is very interesting.
"They came to our restaurant and offered co-operation, so that is all. We are now thinking and seeing what we can do with that, but it is not true that I already bought the whole supply."
Australian Open champion Djokovic had to fight hard against Almagro -- who was a late replacement for the ill Rafael Nadal.
He finally triumphed 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 35 minutes against the 27-year-old, who beat Serbian Janko Tipsarevic in another three-set match on Friday.
"Nico played an amazing game. He was hitting strong from the baseline and he wasn't giving me much time," Djokovic said.
"It was a close match and I am very satisfied with how I played. This is a top-level event and we all want to see where we are in readiness for the season. Hopefully I'll be back to defend my title."
World No. 9 Tipsarevic finished the six-man tournament in fourth place after losing 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to fifth-ranked Ferrer in Saturday's playoff.
The Hopman Cup began in Perth on Saturday, with Australia beating Germany 3-0 in Group A and Spain defeating South Africa 2-1 in Group B.
Australia's win was helped by a knee injury suffered by Germany's former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic, who has slipped out of the top 100 after suffering a series of physical problems in 2012.
She led Australian 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty 6-4 in their singles match before retiring, and was then unable to play in the mixed doubles -- and is a major doubt for the season's opening grand slam in Melbourne next month.
In the opening men's match, Bernard Tomic beat veteran Tommy Haas -- who at 34 is 20 years his senior -- 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 7-5.
Haas, ranked 31 places higher at 21st in the world, blew a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak and failed to serve out for victory at 5-4 ahead in the decider.
Kevin Anderson gave South Africa an early lead when he beat Fernando Verdasco in straight sets, but Anabel Medina Garrigues leveled the tie with victory over Chanelle Scheepers and the Spaniards then won the doubles 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 10-8.
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