ABU DHABI: Rafael Nadal got his season underway with a 6-4, 6-4 loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the semifinals of the Mudabala World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
It was the world number one's first match since losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the final of the World Tour Finals in London on November 11.
Playing ahead of the official ATP season-opener in nearby Doha next week, Ferrer looked the sharper from the start, breaking in the ninth game to take the first set.
It was more of the same in the second set as Nadal struggled to find his range against an opponent who already had a game under his belt, having defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
"I think the fact that I had already played a game on the same surface meant that I was better prepared than Rafa," said Ferrer.
"I am happy with the state of my game and will look to produce my best tennis for the final."