Murray, who won this event in 2009, broke in the sixth game of the opening set, but Wawrinka hit back immediately with a break of his own. The comeback lasted just minutes, though, as Murray attacked Wawrinka’s serve in the eighth before serving out for the set in a little more than 30 minutes.
The second set followed a familiar pattern, with Murray breaking in the sixth to put himself in pole position. The Wimbledon champion had match-point at 5-3, but Wawrinka rallied and Murray was forced to serve out the match.
Murray, whose US Open defence in September was ended by Wawrinka, said: “I came here to get a couple of competitive games under my belt and I’m happy to get two matches against top players.”
When asked about his back, Murray added: “I feel good, but everyone needs matches – especially after missing 3 months. The intensity on tour is higher than ever and all players need matches.”
Murray’s day did not end with the Wawrinka win as the Scot headed straight back to the court for a practice session.
Murray returns to action in the Qatar Open next week as part of his preparations for the Australian Open, which begins January 13.
In the first semi-final of the day David Ferrer overcame world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4, after breaking the 10th game of each set to progress to Saturday’s final.
“It was a good match and I hope the people enjoyed it,” Ferrer said. “I had the edge because I had a match yesterday to get warmed up.”
Ferrer will play Novak Djokovic in the final after the Serbian beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(5) 6-3 in the last four.
The pair shared a break each in the first set, with Djokovic edging the tie-break before cruising to victory in the second set.
“We haven’t stepped into 2014 just yet but this is definitely the start of the season for us professional tennis players,” Djokovic said.
“We are very much in the middle of our preparations for the new season, but it is high-quality tennis the people of Abu Dhabi get to see.”
Saturday’s final will be preceded by the third-place play-off between Nadal and Tsonga.