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Federer Overcomes Slow Start; Seppi Beats Mathieu

Dubai, UAE

Federer© AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer beat Malek Jaziri in his title defence opener.

World No. 2 Roger Federer opened his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title defence Monday with a 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri. The 31-year-old Federer improved to a 35-4 record at this ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament, having lifted the trophy in 2003-2005, ’07 and last year with victory over Andy Murray.

The Swiss overcame a slow start, surrendering his serve in the 11th game as World No. 128 Jaziri, playing his first ATP World Tour match since October 2012, clinched the opening set with a backhand winner down the line. Federer fought back strongly and won 12 of the last 14 games to prevail in 90 minutes.

"It important to sort of react and make sure I didn't panic," said Federer. "But, of course your mind starts to wander, especially in a match where there is hardly any rallies. He's going for broke on every return. All you're trying to do is get into some rallies, and you're missing a lot yourself.

"It was a difficult match for me out here tonight, but I'm happy I found a way and got a day off now so I can work a little bit on the game. Just maybe the pressure is off a little bit, and then automatically I will play a lot better in the second round."

The Basel native is coming off a surprise quarter-final exit at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, where he fell to Julien Benneteau. He opened the season with a semi-final showing at the Australian Open (l. to Murray).

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Seventh seed Andreas Seppi turned around a 0-4 losing run against Paul-Henri Mathieu, beating the Frenchman 6-3, 7-5. The Italian converted six of his 15 break point chances to win in 86 minutes.

"I just tried today to play a little bit more solid and keep the ball a little bit more in the centre, not to play so many angles," said Seppi, who improved to a 7-4 match record on the season. "I think I managed well to win this match. It's my first victory here, so good for me."

Seppi goes on to play Czech Lukas Rosol, who beat Italian qualifier Matteo Viola 6-3, 7-5 in 77 minutes.

Eighth seed Mikhail Youzhny finished strongly to defeat Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 in 89 minutes. The Russian, who was a semi-finalist three weeks ago at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors (l. to Cilic), broke serve five times to clinch his fifth win of the season. The 30-year-old Youzhny is playing in Dubai for the 12th time; he finished runner-up in 2007 (l. to Federer) and 2010 (l. to Djokovic).

“I'm happy because I didn't play well, but I passed the first round,” said Youzhny. “I know the second round will be also tough. You can feel really confidenct and lose second round or you can feel really bad and play finals. I try not to think about this. I try to go on the court and just play.”

Next up for Youzhny will be Daniel Brands, who beat fellow qualifier Florent Serra 7-6(7), 6-4 in 90 minutes.

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