DUBAI, February 23, 2016
The first round of the Dubai Dutry Free Tennis Championships concluded on Tuesday with the tournament’s second seed Stan Wawrinka in action, who played his first match in the desert in eight years, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. The 30-year-old Swiss won 52% of the total points and capitalized on five of his eight break points to prevail in exactly two hours of play. Wawrinka improved to 3-1 over the Ukrainian after he had won the second round encounter betwee the two in Marseille last week.
“It’s good for my confidence but it was a tough first match,” said Wawrinka. “I was hesitating, always being behind, staying aggressive. And it’s tough to play especially against Stakhovsky, who doesn’t give you too much rhythm.
“But it’s a great win for me. Not playing well, still winning, still fighting, still finding a way. I was playing a little bit better at the end, trying to be the aggressive player on the court. It’s good to have a chance to play better tomorrow.”
Third seed Tomas Berdych cruised past Joao Sousa, winning 6-1, 6-4. The 30-year-old Czech lost his service only once, converting four of his own five break point chances to advance after 70 minutes. Berdych faces Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano next, who bet Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 6-4.
“I think he struggled in the first set, so he could get only better,” said Berdych. “I think he just started to play a little bit more solid, played a little bit more aggressive from his forehand side, which is his stronger side. He pushed me a little bit more. But I think overall it was quite good.”
The tournament’s number four Roberto Bautista-Agut continued his career best start, clinching his 15th win of the season. Spain’s number three ousted Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-4 in the pair’s first tour meeting, winning 90% of his first service points in one hour and 25 minutes. Bautista-Agut will take on Korean youngster Hyeon Chung in the second round.
“I served really well. I think I played very solid during all the match,” said Bautista Agut. “I was returning well and putting a lot of pressure on him and returning everything. It was the best start of the season for me, so I have to be confident for sure. I feel great on the court, and I feel I have a lot of rhythm. I played a lot of matches. So it’s good, to win matches and to be with confidence.”
Nick Kyrgios made a successful debut in Dubai, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Rotterdam champion Martin Klizan. The 20-year-old Australian, who just captured his maiden title on the ATP World Tour in Marseille last Sunday, hit eight aces and converted six of his ten break point chances to seal victory in one hour and 31 minutes to take on Mikhail Kukushkin next.
On Monday, world number one Novak Djokovic opened his title bid sweeping aside Tommy Robredo in just 66 minutes 6-1, 6-2.
“Obviously playing my first match in three weeks, different conditions, I didn’t know how I would start, whether or not I would execute the game plan as I prepared myself to,” said Djokovic. “But everything went well. Very few things went wrong.
“I was putting constant pressure on his serve. I returned very, very well. Served solid and was aggressive from the back of the court. I cannot be happier with this performance.”
Djokovic is only one victory away from his 700th career win, facing Malek Jaziri next. The Tunisian wild card beat Russian qualifier Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-1.
Sixth seed Feliciano López emerged victoriuos from the all-Spanish-affair with Guillermo Garcia-López, winning 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in one hour and 54 minutes. The tournament’s number five Viktor Troicki fell to Marcos Baghdatis 6-7, 2-6 in 90 minutes.