Novak Djokovic beats Gael Monfils in Abu Dhabi exhibition event
Djokovic using tournament to warm-up for Australian Open defense
World No.1 will play 16-time grand slam winner Roger Federer in semifinals
Rafael Nadal takes on fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in other last four match
World No.1 Novak Djokovic kicked off his preparations for next month’s Australian Open with a three-set victory over France’s Gael Monfils in Abu Dhabi Thursday.
The Serbian shrugged off the loss of the second set to complete a 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over Monfils at the prestigious exhibition tournament which has attracted six of the world’s top 10 players.
It was marked by a series of thrilling rallies, but Djokovic found his best form in the decider to close out his 16th-ranked opponent.
Djokovic dominated tennis in 2011, winning three grand slams, including Australia and compiling a 70-6 record.
But struggling with injury and fatigue, he lost two matches at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London last month.
After a break, Djokovic is building up to his title defense in Melbourne, but revealed he does not plan to play any other warm-up tournaments before the start of the opening grand slam on January 16.
“I was working on some things throughout the match. I was trying to find a good rhythm and I think I was playing really well for this stage,” Djokovic told gathered reporters.
He will play Roger Federer, who finished 2011 on a high with victory in London, in Friday’s semifinals.
Earlier, David Ferrer beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 2-6 7-6 6-2 to earn a semifinal clash with fellow Spaniard and World No.2 Rafael Nadal.
The pair were members of the Spanish team which beat Argentina to win the Davis Cup at the start of the month.
Nadal told the tournament’s official website that playing in the $250,000 winner-takes-all exhibition was ideal preparation for the challenges ahead.
“I’ve not been able to practice as much in December as normal but I feel much better and this is why I’m here, to practice with the rest of the players,” he said.
The official 2012 ATP season starts next week with tournaments in Qatar, Brisbane in Australia and Chennai in India.