DUBAI: The world number one Novak Djokovic and former champion Andy Murray reached the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships in contrasting styles on Monday.
Djokovic, playing his first match of the 2022 season, always looked comfortable against tournament wild card Lorenzo Musetti and won 6-3, 6-3. But Murray, who will be seeking his 700th career win in the second round, needed just nine minutes under three hours to squeeze past qualifier Christopher O'Connell 6-7, 6-3, 7-5.
Although Musetti will not turn 20 until next month, he claimed one of the biggest wins of his career in his last tournament against world number 11 Hubert Hurkacz. But although he showed plenty of aggression and skill against Djokovic, it was not enough to unsettle an opponent seeking his sixth title in Dubai.
"I think Dubai is a perfect place for me to start a season because of the support and the fans that showed up tonight and really cheered me on the way they did.Big Serbian community as well. Very nice to see Serbian flags around. I felt there was an international crowd supporting me as well, which was very nice. They exceeded my best expectations, so to say, in terms of the atmosphere," said Djokovic.
O'Connell broke Murray to lead the first set 5-4, and although Murray immediately broke back to level at 5-5 it was O'Connell who went on to claim the tiebreak. Murray was rarely threatened in the second set, breaking in the first and last games to take the match to a decider.
That was a tense affair during which each player produced some magnificent tennis. Both struggled on serve at times, with O'Connell saving a breakpoint to hold for 2-2 but then holding four break points to take a 5-4 lead and serve for the match. Murray dug deep to overcome that challenge and then finally earned the only break of the set at 6-5 to end the battle.
Earlier, Filip Krajinovic struggled to overcome a gallant Malek Jaziri in another thrilling first-round battle, edging his way to a 6-7 6-2 6-4 victory in a highly entertaining two hours 18 minutes.