Casper Ruud said his time in Abu Dhabi has given him a "good indication" of the state of his game ahead of the new season after claiming third place at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
The Norwegian world No 3 claimed a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 win over Spanish world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz in the third-place playoff on Sunday.
Both players, who most recently met in the US Open final in September, arrived in the UAE following limited pre-seasons so far. Ruud had been on a tour with Rafael Nadal of Latin America and enjoyed a one-week holiday prior to MWTC, while Alcaraz has been making his way back from the abdominal injury which cut his season short at the start of November.
It was clear from the start of the match that Ruud was the sharper player who had spent more time on a court in recent weeks as the Norwegian raced into a one-set lead after just 26 minutes.
Alcaraz was much-improved in the second set but surrendered his serve in the ninth game, allowing Ruud to close out a comfortable victory.
“One tough match which didn't go my way and I got a win against a good player," Ruud, 23, said, assessing his time at MWTC having lost his semi-final on Saturday to Stefanos Tsitsipas. "Of course, Carlos had a little bit of a tough end to the year, was struggling little bit with injury and has played a lot better than he did today.
"But for me, it gives me quite a good indication. After yesterday, I thought I was quite far behind but after today maybe I’m a bit further ahead than I thought and if I’m playing well I can beat good players. I’ve had some really good days of practice which is the most important thing to get ready for next year, so I’m happy to start my pre-season in Abu Dhabi and for sure got what I wanted from this trip."
For Alcaraz, MWTC was the first event he participated in since retiring from the Paris Masters quarter-finals six weeks ago, drawing the curtain on a historic season which saw him win five titles and become the youngest world No 1 in ATP Tour history.
However, his lack of recent tennis showed during his two matches in Abu Dhabi, having lost in straight sets to Andrey Rublev in his semi-final on Saturday, but the Spanish teenager believes it will all help in his goal to return to full fitness in time for the Australian Open.
"In the process of practice, I have been working to recover my level and feel more comfortable on court," the 19-year-old Spaniard said. "That's the aim, to try and feel more comfortable on court."