In an exhibition match worthy of an ATP final, Rafael Nadal edged Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3), to win the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi for the fifth time on Saturday.

Tsitsipas had taken out world No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the exhibition event on Friday, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, and he was just five points away from beating the No. 1 ranked Nadal in the final, sneaking out the first set in a tiebreak and holding two break points at 4-all in the second set.

The momentum swung Nadal’s way from there, as the Spaniard fought those break points off and held for 5-4, clinched the second set a few games later and broke for a 4-2 lead in the third set.

Things tightened up again as Tsitsipas got the break right back in the next game, and the two players held from there until they found themselves in a third set tiebreak - that’s when Nadal shifted gears one last time, racing through the tiebreak to seal the victory after three hours and 15 minutes.

“I had a great match today,” Nadal commented. “Playing against Stefanos is always a big challenge for me - he’s young and he has a lot of energy. So all the best to Stefanos for the 2020 season.”

An elated Nadal spoke to the crowd after his hard-fought victory:

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Coming into this, the 12th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Nadal and Djokovic were tied for most titles at the event with four each. Nadal now takes sole ownership of the record with five titles in 2010, 2011, two in 2016 - one in January and one in December - and now 2019.

“It’s been a pleasure every time I’ve been able to come here,” the 19-time Grand Slam champion said. “The fifth title here means a lot to me, so I’m very happy to finish the 2019 season this way. I also want to say thank you very much to the fans. All of the crowd has been amazing here.”

“Congratulations to Rafa. It’s great to end the year like this,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. “I think it was high quality tennis today, and hopefully great entertainment for the people to watch."

“I’ve never played an exhibition so long. I’ve probably never even played a match so long. It was a tough loss today, but I gave it my all out there, so I’m happy. We got electric support by all the fans, and it’s been a sick couple of days here in Abu Dhabi, so I’ve really enjoyed my time here a lot.”

Nadal Outlasts Tsitsipas In Abu Dhabi Thriller

Nadal Outlasts Tsitsipas In Abu Dhabi Thriller

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The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion gave one last shout-out to the crowd.

“How many people does this stadium take? 8,000? So, I made 8,000 new friends today!”

Earlier in the day there was a third-place play-off match, and Djokovic didn’t leave Abu Dhabi empty-handed, battling past Russia’s Karen Khachanov in straight sets for that honor, 7-5, 6-3.