Groundhog Day in Abu Dhabi as Nadal and Federer battle it out yet again

If they did not get on so well, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would surely be sick of the sight of one another by now.

By the time the first main tour event of 2011 gets under way in Brisbane tomorrow, the game's two leading men will have played one another three times since they brought down the curtain on the 2010 season, when Federer beat Nadal in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.

Having met in Zurich and Madrid in pre-Christmas charity matches, the Swiss and the Spaniard will play each other again today in the final of an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

In yesterday's semi-finals, into which they both had byes, Federer beat Robin Soderling 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, while Nadal overcame Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4. The world's two top-ranked players will be seeded to meet again in the finals of next week's Qatar Open in Doha and the Australian Open in Melbourne, which begins in 16 days.

The players ranked No 3 and No 4 in the world will prepare for the year's first Grand Slam event by playing in the Hopman Cup, a mixed team tournament which begins in Perth today.

Andy Murray will again team up with Laura Robson, while Novak Djokovic will partner Ana Ivanovic to represent Serbia.

Murray and Robson play their first match on Monday against Italy, with the former facing Potito Starace and the latter playing Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion.

With no ranking points available in Perth, Murray could find himself ousted from the No 4 position in the build-up to the Australian Open for the second year in succession.

Soderling, the world No 5, will swap places with Murray if he wins the title in Brisbane, where he is the top seed ahead of Andy Roddick.

Losing the No 4 ranking before Melbourne led to Murray playing Nadal as early as the quarter-finals last year.

Roddick, who is the defending champion in Brisbane, is raring to go again after recovering from glandular fever. The American says he is feeling fit for the first time for more than six months.

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