Söderling will next head to India for the ATP Chennai Open, which starts on Monday.
Last year, Söderling ended the Nadal’s reign in the French Open and then dumping him in the World Tour finals in London and he was the more aggressive of the two in the opening stages.
“It’s very important to start the season on a winning note and because I haven’t won a tournament for over six months,” said Nadal whose last trophy came in May 2009.
Nadal also paid tribute to Söderling despite the two having enjoyed a stormy relationship in the past.
“He’s a good competitor and has a lot of potential. It’s normal that he should be in the world top 10.”
Nadal had the first two break points of the final at 5-5 only for the big Swede to pull through thanks to some big first serves.
Nadal then also saved two set points from 15-40 down in the following game before forcing the tie-break which he comfortably won 7/3 on the back of some typically stunning defensive work.
Söderling needed to save another break point to avoid going 1-3 down in the second before levelling at 2-2.
But two games later he handed Nadal two more break points with a weak volley at the net and the former world No.1 banked the second of these when the Swede hit wide.
The door was wide open for Nadal, but Söderling belied the tournament’s exhibition status by digging deep to break back in the following game before levelling at 4-4.
The Swede then saved three match points two games later with an angled volley to get to 5-5, but Nadal was by now well on top and he finished off the tiring Swede at 7-5.
Federer took third place in Abu Dhabi, beating Spain’s David Ferrer 6-1, 7-5.
Nadal next heads to nearby Doha where he will open the ATP regular season as second seed to Switzerland’s Roger Federer, while Söderling will fly from Abu Dhabi to Chennai in India, South Asia’s only ATP event.
Söderling is the top seed at the Chennai event, regarded as a warm-up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins in Melbourne on January 18.
The 25-year-old Swede will begin his campaign against 100th-ranked American Robby Ginepri, known for a stunning run at the US Open in 2005 when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Andre Agassi in five sets.
Söderling faces a possible quarter-final against fifth seed Dudi Sela of Israel, while his semi-final opponent could be the 21st-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.