Exhibition stuff from Rafa

Spaniard sees off Soderling to set up new season while Federer finishes third
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Rafael Nadal dispatched Robin Soderling 7-6 7-5 to clinch the Capitala World Tennis Championship exhibition title in Abu Dhabi last night.

Soderling, who beat Roger Federer to reach the final, had two set points in the first set but lost the tie-break. The Swede tired in the second set but saved three match points before the Spaniard finished him off.

Nadal earlier hailed the event as the "perfect preparation" for Doha, where the ATP season begins next week, but it was Soderling – who beat Nadal in their two previous ATP Tour meetings – who began the more aggressively in the opening set.

Nadal saved two set points before forcing a tie-break, which he comfortably won 7-3 on the back of strong defensive work. Soderling came back from a break down to level the second set at 4-4, then rescued three match points two games later with an angled volley to get to 5-5 but Nadal was by now well on top and wore down Soderling's resistance to begin 2010 with a title.

Federer earlier bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Soderling to beat David Ferrer 6-1 7-5 and take third place in the tournament.

Teenager Sorana Cirstea inspired Romania to a surprise victory over the top seeds Australia on the opening day of the Hopman Cup in Perth.

The 19-year-old Romanian shocked world No 13, Sam Stosur, in front of her home crowd 3-6 6-4 6-3 in the opening match before teaming up with an injury-hit Victor Hanescu in the mixed doubles to clinch an unlikely win. Hanescu had been hampered by cramp towards the end of his closely fought match with the returning Lleyton Hewitt before succumbing 3-6 6-3 7-6 as Australia levelled the tie but, with Cirstea taking centre stage, Romania stunned their hosts 7-5 6-1 in the mixed doubles to undermine Australia's hopes of reaching next Sunday's final.

Maria Sharapova outplayed Venus Williams to take a 6-3 6-4 win in an exhibition match in Thailand. Sharapova put Williams away in only one hour and 34 minutes to record her first win over the American since 2007. "It's good to be back," said the 22-year-old world No 14 who won the 2008 Australian Open but was unable to defend her title last year due to a shoulder injury.

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