ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Andy Murray had a shaky start to his preparations for the 2013 season Thursday, losing in straight sets to Janko Tipsarevic in the opening match of the World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament.
Two early breaks in each set helped Tipsarevic dispatch the third-ranked Murray 6-3, 6-4. The ninth-ranked Serb now faces Nicolas Almagro, a late replacement for Rafael Nadal who pulled out of the tournament with a stomach bug.
"It's not every day that you get to play a Grand Slam champion and an Olympic gold medallist ," Tipsarevic said. "I know it's an early season tournament but I can tell you that the six of us take this very seriously. I knew I could beat Andy as I have beaten him before. He's a totally different animal now as he won a Grand Slam and Olympic gold so beating him here has given me confidence. Both of us have very similar games so it's great to come out on top."
In Thursday's other match, fifth-ranked David Ferrer swept aside No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 to set up a semifinal against top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won the tournament last year. Ferrer easily won the first set after jumping out to a 5-0 lead and broke Berdych early in the second to clinch the win.
"I played well today and I was surprised as it has been a long time without playing a competition," Ferrer said. "It's a fast court and this was the first time I played at night but I played a good game. I will enjoy a victory for now but tomorrow I will have to play my best against Novak."
Ahead of his title defence in Abu Dhabi, Djokovic said he was excited about the 2013 season and that he's making the French Open -- the only Grand Slam tournament he has yet to win -- his top goal of the year.
"I managed to have the best year of my career in 2011 and I knew that it was going to be difficult in 2012 to maintain No. 1 in the world and play consistently," Djokovic said. "I did, and so this year was an even more successful year from a psychological aspect. ... Ambitions are always high and I want to win every Grand Slam and major tournament I play and this year is no different."