Abu Dhabi:Rafael Nadal gets an early New Year opportunity to avenge the worst defeat of his career on Saturday when he tackles bitter rival Robin Soderling, the man who dumped him out of the French Open.
World number two Nadal was defeated for the first time at Roland Garros in 2009, where he was four-time champion, by the towering Swede, a setback which sent his season into a downward, injury-hit spiral.
Nadal, who also lost to Soderling at the ATP World Tour finals in London, gets his chance for revenge when the two meet in the final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament, here on Saturday.
Soderling made the final by beating world number one Roger Federer 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 in his semi-final on Friday.
"I'm very happy to be here in Abu Dhabi, it's the perfect place to prepare for Doha and the Australian Open," said Nadal who heads for the Qatar Open next week before defending his title in Melbourne.
"I feel OK. I had the best five months of my career at the start of 2009 and after that I had a few problems. But anyway I didn't have bad results - I lost in the semi-finals in all the tournaments and made one final. It's impossible to be 100 per cent all the time."
Nadal, who beat compatriot David Ferrer 7-6, 6-3 in an all-Spanish semi-final, is without an ATP final since May 2009 with his second half of the season badly-affected by knee tendinitis and a stomach strain.
Soderling achieved his first career win over Federer, having lost all previous 12 times they had met, including in the 2009 Roland Garros final.
Federer said: "I've known Robin for a while and it was great to see his incredible run at the French Open. I think he's really picked it up and it's great to see.
"It was obviously hard starting the year against him in a rematch of Roland Garros. I had fun though."