Djokovic Recovers For Season Opening Win
David Goffin makes winning start in tournament debut
Novak Djokovic lost the first four games and recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the first set on Monday in his 2017 ATP World Tour season opener at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The World No. 2 and defending champion regained his poise to record a 7-6(1), 6-3 win over Jan-Lennard Struff in one hour and 27 minutes, marking his 14th straight victory against a German opponent.
“It’s first match of the year. You never know how you're going to start,” said Djokovic. “As well as you have trained in the preparation period and the days prior to the tournament, [it] really is different when it's competitive play, when you start the official match and the crowd is there."
“It changes things mentally. I was a bit flat on my feet… But I stayed composed because I knew, I believed that I could find the rhythm, start reading his serve better, and that's what happened," added Djokovic. "Certainly I can play better, but 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.”
Djokovic, who has an 8-1 record at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, lost just six of his first service points. Last year, the Serbian became the sixth player who has ranked No. 1 in his career to win the Doha title, joining former coach Boris Becker - who won the inaugural title in 1993. Other No. 1s to lift the trophy have been Stefan Edberg (1994-95), Jim Courier (1997), Marcelo Rios (2001), Roger Federer (2005-06, ’11).
Djokovic will next face Horacio Zeballos, who saved two match points to beat Florian Mayer 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(9).
Fourth seed David Goffin saved 10 of the 12 break points faced to defeat Robin Haase 7-6(4), 6-2. The Belgian awaits the winner of Fernando Verdasco and Vasek Pospisil in the second round.
“It’s never easy when you start the first tournament of the season,” said Goffin. “You can feel the stress a little bit before the match… I’m feeling good mentally, because for me, it's always been the key to stay fresh mentally. Physically, I know I can play week after week.”
Elsewhere, Dustin Brown knocked out Facundo Bagnis 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-4, Jiri Vesely hit 13 aces to overcome wild card Anil Yuksel 6-2, 6-3 and qualifier Radek Stepanek advanced when his opponent, eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis, retired due to a right ankle injury.
World No. 1 Andy Murray, who is also competing at the 25th edition of the tournament, opened his season with Mariusz Fyrstenberg. But David Marrero and Nenad Zimonjic got the better of the pair 6-2, 6-4 in 59 minutes. Murray will play his first singles match of 2017 against Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday.
Also in doubles, Fourth seeds Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov and Andrey Kuznetsov. They next face Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, who beat Malek Jaziri and Mubarak Shannan Zayid 6-2, 6-3 in 47 minutes.