Djokovic sweats to victory

DUBAI: Novak Djokovic began his bid to make his first successful title defence on the ATP Tour with a weird wobble and an uncomfortable feeling which he described, after his 6-4, 6-4 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the Dubai Open, as "sweaty".

The problem was that the match had appeared all but over when the World No 2 from Serbia quelled the fluent Spaniard's best efforts and advanced to 5-0 in the second set. Then, against the odds, Garcia-Lopez broke back twice and looked capable of extending the contest.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, had the most unusual match of the opening day, despite the routine-sounding 6-2, 6-3 win over Igor Kunitsyn, a Russian qualifier. The second game lasted fully 25 minutes and contained 14 deuces before Murray sneaked it -- and it was billed by the tournament's PR as the second longest game in the ATP World Tour's history, though this proved difficult to confirm.

Gilles Simon still has not won a match on the tour for three and a half months after suffering a defeat to Marcos Baghdatis. Simon, who is trying to recover from a knee injury, lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

Baghdatis did well, for he was suffering from a high fever. He rallied consistently and served aggressively and was pleased to have caused the first seeding upset of the tournament. Simon's problem is that he has a tendon which is not regenerating, and after a three month lay-off has been practising for just 20 days. He has been told by the doctor that it is fine to play unless he feels pain in the knee again, and then he should stop immediately.