Anderson would go on to be beaten by Novak Djokovic, but gave a good account of himself in the win over Nadal. Till then, there had been only one break, which Djokovic had in the third game of the set, which he failed to convert.
Djokovic extended his dominance over Anderson, whose only victory in 10 matches against the Serb came a decade ago in Miami.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion made the Australian final after his only previous Brisbane campaign, losing a gripping five-set encounter to Roger Federer.
In the super tiebreak, Khachanov raced away to a 5-1 lead aided by a couple of unforced errors from Thiem and didn't face much resistance as he wrapped up the match in 10-3 in an hour and 24 minutes.
Earlier in the day, Russia's Karen Khachanov won the third-place match 6-3, 4-6, 10-3 over Austrian Dominik Thiem, who stepped in for Nadal after the Spaniard chose to skip the contest to avoid aggravating an injury.
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A right knee injury forced Nadal to retire from his US Open semi-final in early September - his last competitive match. I played three good matches and it is always a great way to start the new season.
"He is coming back from injury like I am, so we are kind of in the same situation, " said Tsonga, who enters the tournament on an injury-protected ranking.
"I'm in a better place than I was a few months ago".
Asked if there is a record he dreams of capturing before the end of his career, Djokovic said: "I would lie if I said I didn't want to get to as high a Grand Slam wins number as possible. The match (in Abu Dhabi) is a step forward for me, that's the main thing".
"My goal is try to be ready for the Australian Open and I think I'm on the way to make that happen but, of course, I can't take a lot of risk after the surgery". A forehand victor and two aces the first on his second serve, was enough for the world number six, Anderson to win his next service game. While the Russian took the first set 6-3, the Austrian drew level when he took the second set 6-4.