Rafa Nadal has begun his year in perfect fashion with victory over Gael Monfils in the Qatar Open in Doha.

The Spanish world number one put down an ominous marker for the forthcoming Australian Open on Saturday, as he claimed his 61st career title in the desert city.

Monfils, who had been runner up in Doha twice before was brushed aside 6-1 in the first set. But he bounced back in the next, taking it 7-5 on a tiebreak to send it to a decider.

Nadal then completed his 61st career ATP title win by winning that decider 6-2.

Victory took Nadal past Andre Agassi into eighth spot on the all-time list of ATP Tour title winners and helped him extend his lead at the top of the rankings over Novak Djokovic who opted not to play this week.

Monfils' two career wins over Nadal had both come in Doha, in 2009 and 2012, but apart from the second set he was out-muscled by the Spaniard who moved smoothly on the hard court and was far too rugged.

Nadal had earlier survived a tough test against German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk in Doha on Friday.

The Spaniard, warming up for this month's Australian Open which he missed last year because of illness, dropped the opening set against the world No.162 before raising his game sufficiently to battle through 4-6 6-2 6-3.

Monfils beat another German, Florian Mayer, 6-3, 6-2 in the other semi-final.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies