DOHA, January 2, 2017
Defending champion Novak Djokovic headlined the action on a busy Day 1 at the 25th edition of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, held at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha.
In the first of three singles matches on Centre Court, the 29-year-old from Serbia defeated Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6, 6-3 in the pair’s first tour meeting. Djokovic has won 13 matches in a row against Germans since losing to Tommy Haas in the fourth round at the 2013 ATP Masters 1000 Miami. The tournament’s number two withstood nine aces, hitting four of own to seal victory in one hour and 26 minutes.
“I had to get more time to get the engine started I guess. It’s the first match of the year. You never know how you’re going to start,” Djokovic told after his first win in 2017.
“You have trained in the preparation period and the days prior to the tournament, but it is really different when it’s competitive play, when you start the official match and the crowd is there. So it changes things mentally. I was a bit flat on my feet, and Struff, credit to him for playing aggressive, hitting the serves well, and ripping ball from the baseline.
“Also things were coming in, so that resulted in a 1-5 deficit. But I stayed composed because I believed that I could find the rhythm, start reading his serve better, and that’s what happened. Certainly I can play better. But, again, it’s first match of the year; I know that I can’t be at my top the very first match, but I believe that the process is right.”
This is the third year in a row and fifth time in his career that Djokovic is playing in the opening week of the ATP World Tour season. Two years ago he lost in the quarterfinals to Ivo Karlovic and followed last year by winning the title. In 2009, he played in Brisbane and lost to Ernests Gulbis in the opening round. In 2007, he won the title in Adelaide in his tourney debut. Last year Djokovic became the sixth player, who has ranked World No. 1 in his career to lift the Doha trophy, joining former coach Boris Becker who won the inaugural title in 1993.
Djokovic will next take on Horacio Zeballos. The Argentine saved two match points to battle past German veteran Florian Mayer 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 37 minutes.
In the next match on, fourth seed David Goffin made a successful Doha debut against number one Dutchman Robin Haase, winning 7-6, 6-2. The 26-year-old from Belgium capitalized on four of his five break point chances to advance in one hour and 29 minutes.
“It’s never easy when you start the first tournament of the season. Then you are a little bit nervous. You can feel the stress a little bit before the match. That’s why maybe I needed one game to be in the match,” Goffin told.
“But at the end, I’m really happy with the way I fought in the first set. Then I won the first set and was much better in the second.”
Next up for Goffin will be the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who beat Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-0 in 75 minutes.
There were six singles matches held on outside courts, including Germany’s Dustin Brown, who fought past Facundo Bagnis from Argentina 6-1, 6-7, 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes. Nicolas Almagro of Spain overcame Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 win in almost two and a half hours of play.
Monday Photo Gallery (by Brigitte Urban):