Dubai: Seven-time champion Roger Federer took his first step towards a record eighth crown with a quick-fire 6-1, 6-3 win over Benoit Paire on the opening night of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.
Going into their fourth meeting with a clear 3-0 career record against the Frenchman, the crowd favourite took just 53 minutes on court to send his 27-year-old opponent packing and set a second round meeting with the winner of Tuesday’s match between Mikhail Youzhny and qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, on Wednesday.
Seeded No.3 here, Federer was comfortable with his performance.
“There were some break points to be saved, and, I think I returned very well for a first round," he said.
"I was able to get my second serves in deep, and was able to go into the offensive quickly. The serve in the beginning was a bit off maybe, but I think also playing at night here for the first time it’s always just a different ball when you toss it up with the lights and everything. So that’s going to get better as I progress in the tournament,” Federer promised.
“I didn’t have to move that much as it was very quick rallies. So we’ll see how that’s going to turn out. But obviously couldn’t be a better first round for me here in Dubai,” he added.
Federer broke for the first time in the fourth game and then held for 4-1.
Paire asked for on-court treatment for his heavily-strapped ankle at this stage, but that did not deter the former world number one as he broke a second time in the sixth to serve out the set 6-1 in 27 minutes.
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In the second set, both players held serves for the first four games till Federer forced a string of unforced errors from his opponent to break him in the fifth and held to go 4-2 clear in front of a near full-house at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
From then on, it was business as usual for the long-time Dubai resident as he wrapped things up in quick time.
Making his 13th appearance since 2002, Federer was glad to be back in Dubai. “It’s nice as you’re warming up you hear the crowd already somewhat as they’re getting pumped up by someone. You hear music and hear the roars. Then when you walk out, I don’t know, it’s a nice feeling to have. You know, it’s mutual, because I missed playing here last year,” Federer said.
“I have played here for so many years, seen the tournament grow. And especially after Australia, fans and myself know how special it is for me to be back on the court. It was a nice welcome and I am very thankful always,” he added.
Earlier on the opening day, Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber remained just two match wins away from reaching the 400 wins milestone while knocking out eighth seed Gilles Muller in straight sets sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut handed 20-year-old Karen Khachanov his sixth straight loss on the tour this season.
Kohlschreiber, a semi-finalist in 2014 and a quarter-finalist last year, improved his overall Dubai record to 9-7 and his career record against Muller to 2-0 with a 6-4, 7-6 (1) win, while Bautista Agut powered through with a 6-1, 7-6 (4) result against the Russian.
Handed out a wild card entry here, the sixth-seeded Bautista-Agut will get a day’s rest before he prepares to face the winner of the match between Florian Mayer and fellow Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, while Kohlschreiber will take on the winner of the match between Daniil Medvedev and the UAE’s wild card Omar Behroozian.
Men’s Round One:
Philipp Kohlschreiber bt Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-6 (1)
Roberto Bautista-Agut bt Karen Khachanov 6-1, 7-6 (4)
Marcel Granollers bt Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez bt Viktor Troicki 6-4, 6-3
Roger Federer bt Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3.
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