Djokovic brushes Ferrer aside
Novak Djokovic made an impressive return to action by brushing David Ferrer aside 6-0 6-3 to reach Saturday's World Tennis Championship final.
He now faces Nicolas Almagro in Abu Dhabi after the Spaniard beat Janko Tipsarevic 2-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
Djokovic made his first appearance on court since winning the ATP World Tour Finals in November and needed little over an hour to dismiss world number five Ferrer, who was completely outclassed.
Ferrer was at sixes and sevens to deal with Djokovic's trademark range of returns and powerful aces in a devastating first set but gradually improved to break his opponent in the ninth game, forcing a more competitive finale.
The exhibition tournament at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, where Djokovic triumphed last year, was the ideal way for the Serbian to warm up for the upcoming defence of his Australian Open title.
Djokovic made light work of the Spaniard in the early exchanges, quickly taking advantage of a clutch of uncharacteristic errors to find himself 5-0 up within 20 minutes.
Ferrer, though, discovered some of the dynamism that took him beyond Tomas Berdych in Thursday's opener to race up to 40-0 in the final game.
The advantage exchanged hands three times but Djokovic was celebrating when his opponent lost concentration to power a forehand return well beyond the baseline.
Ferrer held out for deuce on the Serbian's serve when play resumed but Djokovic powered through, only for the Spaniard to tighten up his strokes and hold his serve for the first time.
Ferrer soon broke to love but his opponent survived an intense 10th game to break back.
The Serbian held comfortably before forcing the score to 5-2 despite Ferrer's renewed determination to force a third set.
The world number five delayed the inevitable with a comfortable hold but Djokovic promptly served out the match to reach the final.
After the contest, Djokovic told ESPN: "I love this court and the conditions here. I wish all the tournaments in the world were played here.
"It's definitely a great surface. It's not too warm here, not too cold, it's ideal to prepare on.
"I am surprised with my game considering it's the first match of the official season. Hopefully I can play another good one tomorrow."
An out-of-sorts Ferrer added: "He's the best. I tried but I couldn't do it. Next time I will try again.
"I won three games but to beat 'Nole' I need to play my best tennis and today wasn't a good day."
The second semi-final was far from straightforward, though, as Almagro recovered from a set down to beat Tipsarevic 2-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
Tipsarevic, who had beaten US Open champion Andy Murray to get this far, dominated the first set, breaking his opponent in the first game and powering through to a 6-2 win.
But there was nothing to separate the two in an exhausting second set, with each man holding serve to reach a tie-break after 90 minutes of play.
It was Almagro who found the extra energy to go clear in the breaker, with Tipsarevic managing to chip two points off the Spaniard's lead but, in the end, he could not close the gap.
Almagro's recovery continued apace in the decider, an early break-hold putting Tipsarevic firmly on the backfoot, and a confident holding performance saw the world number 11 through.