DUBAI — Roger Federer took the opening step in his bid for a record eighth title at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Benoit Paire.
Federer, playing his first match since winning a record 18th Grand Slam title a month ago in Melbourne over Rafael Nadal, had been unsure of his form after dealing with a leg injury picked up at the Australian Open combined with a month off court after his title triumph.
But he need not have worried as he defeated Paire for the fourth time without a loss with the streaky Frenchman treated on his right ankle and also jeered for tossing a racket in the second set as he was crashing to defeat.
Federer is playing the event for the 13th time, improving to 48-5 in the emirate where he keeps a training base. Federer won his 11th match since losing to Tomas Berdych in the 2013 semifinals.
He has yet to lift an eighth title at any event having achieved seven in Dubai, Wimbledon, Basel, Cincinnati and Halle.
“I’m happy with how I played, I was able to stay aggressive,” Federer said as the event began it’s 25th edition. “I couldn’t have had a better first round start. “I still cannot belive my start to the season.”
Paire had his ankle strapped trailing 4-1 in the opening set and then lost serve as Federer took a 5-1 lead. The third seed wrapped it up after less than 30 minutes with a service winner. The second set was equally one-way as Federer went through in well under an hour.
Spanish sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut advanced over Russian hope Karen Khachanov 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) while 2014 semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber moved to within two victories of his 400th career win after he defeated eighth seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-6 (7/1).
“I didn’t know, actually, to achieve my record would be great,” the 33-year-old German said. “It would put me in the semi-finals. But I still have a few years to play on the Tour, so I’m pretty confident that I’m gonna make 400-plus, hopefully.”
Spain’s Marcel Granollers put out Czech Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2 while Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated Serb Viktor Troicki 6-4, 6-3.
Earlier, top-seeded Andy Murray said Sunday he is back to his best ahead of the Dubai Tennis Championships after recounting his struggles with shingles following his early exit from the Australian Open last month.
Shingles is a common, painful skin rash. “I was a bit sick for 10 days, a couple of weeks, after I got back from Australia,” said Murray, who will play Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the first round here. “I feel fresh and ready to go here. I had shingles,” he added. “It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. I had to go easy for a little while, so I wasn’t able to push that hard in training when I got back into it. But I’m fine now and have been training flat out the last two weeks.”
Murray said he’s not sure if the illness had already started developing while he was playing in the Australian Open. The British top-ranked player was upset in a four-set, fourth-round encounter with Mischa Zverev at the first major of the year.
“I didn’t play particularly well at the Australian Open,” Murray said. “I started to play a bit better as it went on, but not as well as I would’ve liked.” This marks Murray’s sixth career appearance at the Dubai tournament. His best result was reaching the 2012 final where he lost to Federer. — Agencies