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Nadal, Murray, Federer Off the Mark In 2009

Doha, U.A.E.

Spanish World No. 1 Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesWorld No. 1 Rafael Nadal

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal received his 2008 ATP World Tour Champion trophy on Tuesday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, having been unable to receive it at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai where he was absent due to injury.

Shortly before the presentation by Tournament Director Karim Alami he had opened his 2009 ATP World Tour season in commanding form by crushing 2000 Doha champion Fabrice Santoro 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.

The Spaniard surrendered just four points and hit 17 winners in the first set. Santoro fared marginally better in the second set, winning his only game of the match in the third game. However, the Frenchman had no more answers for Nadal and the Majorcan closed out victory after only 46 minutes, having hit 28 winners to just five unforced errors in total.

The 22-year-old Nadal was a quarter-finalist on his only previous event appearance in 2005 (l. to Ljubicic). In the second round he will face Slovakian qualifier Karol Beck, who defeated Michal Przysiezny 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Two-time former champion and World No. 2 Roger Federer was untroubled in his first round 6-2, 6-2 victory over Italian Potito Starace. The Swiss dropped just seven points on serve throughout and converted four of five break points to wrap up the win in only 48 minutes.

The 27-year-old Basel native won back-to-back titles in Doha in 2005 (d. Ljubicic) and ’06 (d. Monfils). He improved to a 13-1 event record, his only loss coming to Jan-Michael Gambill in the quarter-finals of his debut appearance in 2002.

World No. 4 Andy Murray won his first match of the 2009 ATP World Tour season as he advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Albert Montanes.

The third seed and defending champion converted four of 15 break point chances against the Spaniard to improve to a 10-1 record in Doha. On his debut appearance in 2007 he reached the final (l. to Ljubicic) and last year went one better as he triumphed over Stanislas Wawrinka in the title match. In the second round this week he will face Philipp Petzschner.

Murray has emerged as one of the main contenders to be crowned the ATP World Tour Champion in 2009 after a stellar season in ’08. The 21-year-old Scot won five ATP World Tour titles in total, including two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments at Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) and Madrid (d. Simon), and reached his first Grand Slam final at the US Open (d. No. 1 Nadal, l. to No. 2 Federer).

Eighth-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber also advanced, beating Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 6-3. Last year, the 28th-ranked Kohlschreiber was a quarterfinalist in the singles draw (l. to Ljubicic) and lifted the doubles trophy with partner David Skoch.

Kohlschreiber next will face Belgian Kristof Vliegen, who defeated Spaniard Oscar Hernandez 6-1, 6-7(4), 7-6(5).

Austrian qualifier Alexander Peya caused an upset as he defeated Russian seventh seed Dmitry Tursunov 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. World No. 148 Peya, who is making his debut in Doha, had not won a completed match on the ATP World Tour since reaching the Newport quarter-finals in July last year.

Sixth-seeded Russian Igor Andreev also suffered defeat, losing to compatriot Mikhail Youzhny 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. World No. 39 Youzhny is visiting Doha for the seventh time with his best result being a semifinal finish in 2002 (l. to Gambill).

Elsewhere, French wild card Arnaud Clement set up a second round clash with fourth-seeded American Andy Roddick after dismissing Argentine Diego Junqueira 6-1, 6-2.

 

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