DUBAI: Defending champion Novak Djokovic began his bid to make his first successful title defence on the ATP Tour with a weird wobble and an uncomfortable feeling which he described, after his 6-4, 6-4 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the Dubai Open, as “sweaty”.
The problem was that the match had appeared all but over when the world number two from Serbia quelled the fluent Spaniard’s best efforts and advanced to 5-0 in the second set.
Then, against the odds, Garcia-Lopez broke back twice and looked capable of extending the contest.
The champion was being very self-critical. Before that he had accelerated from 4-4 in the first set with a winning sequence of seven games in which he began to be consistently too forceful for Garcia-Lopez.
It indicated that, even though he had been unwell during the Australian Open last month, he may now be in decent shape, and will be a strong favourite to make further progress when he takes on his compatriot Viktor Troicki for a place in the last eight.
Another front runner for the title, Andy Murray had the most unusual match of the opening day, despite the routine-sounding 6-2, 6-3 win over Igor Kunitsyn, a Russian qualifier ranked only just inside the top 100.
The second game lasted fully 25 minutes and contained 14 deuces before Murray sneaked it – and it was billed by the tournament’s PR as the second longest game in the ATP World Tour’s history, though this proved difficult to confirm.
Murray appeared to have one or two physical issues, perhaps with his groin and a knee in his first match since playing Roger Federer in the Australian Open final three weeks ago.