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Fedex battles on past Malek Jaziri

Roger Federer seemed to have talked his way into a scare before beginning an up-and-down defence of his Dubai Open title with a recovery against an opponent even more popular than himself on Monday.

The Grand Slam record-holder had said before the match that often took him a while to suss out players he had never previously played - and sure enough he ran into trouble against the best player in the Arab world, Malek Jaziri, dropping the first set to loud cheers.

When Federer found a couple of extra gears, taking the next two sets in less than three-quarters of an hour, a 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 win brought him prolonged applause as well. But the outcome brought a definite sense of premonition with it.

‘People might think, okay he’s a wild card, so it’s an easy draw,’ Federer had said.’ I think it’s tricky, because I don’t know exactly his pattern, his favourite shots, all those things.

‘It’s always a big match here in the Middle East playing someone like him. And first rounds always create pressure as I’m the defending champion and I want to start well. So it’s not a simple match for me.’

Neverthless some of this was dramatically improbable.

The unfamiliar one had not played a match for more than three months because of a knee injury, and was ranked outside the top 100, only getting into the tournament with a wild card.

 But Jaziri has talent and attitude. The Tunisian blitzed his first serve at 135 mph, and played with the dangerous freedom of an underdog pleased just to get a bite or two into the big man’s trouser-leg.

There were also other pressures on Federer, which he described with a mixture of honesty and a nicely bizarre sense of humour.

‘I also think that it played on my mind, you know, that he has this huge knee brace, and a tape, not having played this year,’ he said, with a crazy chortle. ‘Gott win - right?’

 Federer finished with some great serving statistics, several searing forehands, and a few nimble sideways scrambles which belied his status as the oldest player in the top ten.

Earlier he even half-admitted that he is past his prime, having stated that this would be between the ages of 23 and 27 for most players. When he was then asked if he was past his prime, his immediate reaction was laughter.

 ‘It depends,’ he said, buying time to think. ‘I think I’m playing excellent tennis. But if you look back historically I think that’s usually when you’re supposed to be playing your best.

 ‘But then of course there are exceptions. There are guys who win Grand Slams at 16 and some win them at 34. So it depends on how you see things.

‘Right now even the over-30 guys are consistent on tour. It’s nice to see them hanging in there.’

 In fact Andre Agassi at the age of 32 is the oldest player of the modern era to have won a Grand Slam title, although more than 40 years ago, at the start of the open era, Ken Rosewall won a Grand Slam title at 37.

He next plays the winner of an all-Spanish tussle between Marcel Granollers and Albert Montanes, ranked 34 and 89 respectively.


SOMDEV ADVANCES IN DUBAI OPEN

India’s Somdev Devvarman entered the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship beating Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn in straight sets, here last night on Monday. Devvarman, who is ranked 315 in the ATP list, needed just over an hour to dispose off the Russian’s challenge with a 6-1 6-4 scoreline. On Wednesday, the 28-year-old will meet the winner of the first round tie between Cypriot Marcus Baghdatis and Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.Devvarman put up a solid performance against the Russian, who is 148 places above the Indian, ranked 167 in the list. India’s best singles player at the moment broke his Russian opponent’s serve four times to take the first set at 6-1. In the second set, both Devvarman and Kunitsyn held their serves during the first six games to be level at 3-3. However in the seventh game, Somdev unleashed some booming forehands and including a standout backhand crosscourt shot as he broke the Russian to take a decisive 4-3 lead. The Indian then held his serve in the next game to go 5-3 up. Kunitsyn however did well as he held onto his serve. In the 10th and final game, Devvarman won on his second match point as forehand from the Russian went over the baseline.    


NADAL TO MISS INDIAN WELLS AND MIAMI: REPORT

Rafael Nadal will miss next month’s ATP World Tour Masters Series events in Miami and Indian Wells, the Madrid sports daily Marca reported on Tuesday. The 11-time Grand Slam champion has only recently returned to the court after a seven-month injury lay-off with a persistent knee problem but has decided to only play on clay courts as he prepares his bid for an eighth French Open title in May. Nadal, who begins his campaign at the Mexico Open in Acapulco later on Tuesday against Argentine Diego Schwartzman, won the Brazil Open in just his second tournament since his return a fortnight ago. But he admitted on arriving in Mexico that his knee was still was not 100 percent. ‘It’s better and I’ve been able to compete but it’s still bothering me,’ he said. ‘It’s better on some days and worse on others, which isn’t ideal for someone like me, because my idea of competing is based on giving it all at all times.’ After his participation in Mexico the World No.5 is expected to return to play the Masters Series event in Monaco in April before also competing in Madrid and Rome before the French Open  begins at Roland Garros in Paris on May 26.
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