Murray coasts as Wawrinka falls at the first hurdle in Dubai

Murray coasts as Wawrinka falls at the first hurdle in Dubai

World No. 1 Andy Murray in his element is off to a fine start in Dubai on Tuesday.
World No. 1 Andy Murray in his element is off to a fine start in Dubai on Tuesday.

DUBAI — World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka fell at the first hurdle in the Dubai Open on Tuesday, beaten 7-6(4) 6-3 by 77th-ranked Bosnian Damir Dzumhur. But top seed Andy Murray was victorious in his first match since a shock exit at January’s Australian Open, beating Malek Jaziri, the world No 51, 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday to begin his challenge for his first title in the desert.

“I was not good enough,” Swiss Wawrinka, playing his first match since losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open semi-finals, said. “I started well but it was a tough match. It was his day.”

But it was a welcome, smooth return to the court for Murray, who suffered a bout of shingles since that early loss in Melbourne, and he brushed off the rust and an early break of serve, to win comfortably.

The Tunisian, in the best form of his career at 33, broke for 2-1 on a very fortuitous net cord but Murray hit straight back and broke serve again to win the opening set. The Scot took total control in the second set as his opponent wilted.

Jaziri bizarrely called for the trainer at 0-40 in the fourth game, resuming after a brief conversation, but did not win another game. In the second round, Murray will face Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who won their last meeting in Indian Wells in 2012.

The 24-year-old Dzumhur, making his debut at the Dubai tournament, recovered from losing the first three games to outplay the second seed and three-times grand slam champion. He will next play Spain’s Marcel Granollers next.

Defending champion Wawrinka, in his first match since his Australian Open loss, was upset by Dzumhur after a close first set. Wawrinka left Melbourne with a right knee injury and began regular practices only a week ago.

Wawrinka said his knee was fine, but suggested he needed more matches to get up to speed. “In practice, (I) start to be OK the last few days, but today I was missing a little bit of something,” he said. “He started also to play a bit better, to put a little
bit more first serves in, to put a little bit more pressure on.”

Wawrinka raced to a 4-1 lead. “Three games in, like, six, seven minutes, he was playing outstanding there,” Dzumhur said. “I couldn’t even touch the ball.” But that was also the point when Wawrinka slowed down and showed signs of becoming tentative, and allowed the Bosnian into the match. In the tiebreaker, Dzumhur went 5-2 up, which was more than enough to secure the first set.

“I was hoping that he’s gonna go down with his level of game, and that’s what happened,” Dzumhur said. “I started to fight, to grind.” Dzumhur bolted to 5-1 in the second set, but became nervous when serving for the match. In the 10-point seventh game, Dzumhur served three double faults, and lost the third break point he faced.

He kept his composure when serving for the match two games later, setting up match point with a forehand cross-court volley, and watched Wawrinka sail a forehand long.

Fresh from a runner-up showing in Marseille at the weekend, seventh seed Lucas Pouille dismissed Adam Pavlasek 6-2, 6-2 to reach the second round. The Frenchman, who lost out to countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Open 13 Marseille title match, won a main draw match in Dubai for the first time in three attempts as he advanced in just 55 minutes.

Elsewhere, qualifier Evgeny Donskoy beat fellow Russian Mikhail Youzhny, the 2007 and 2010 finalist, 6-4, 6-4 for a clash against seven-time former champion and third seed Federer. Fernando Verdasco set an all-Spanish clash with sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut after beating Andreas Seppi 6-2, 7-5. Daniel Evans will take on fourth seed Gael Monfils after cruising past Dustin Brown 6-2, 6-3.

Djokovic eyes fun in Acapulco after Australian Open nightmare

Novak Djokovic said Monday he is ready to atone for his shock Australian Open exit as he prepares to return to action in Acapulco. The 29-year-old world No. 2 makes his bow in the tournament on Tuesday, his first match since tumbling out in Melbourne last month in the second round against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin.

The Australian Open defeat was the nadir of a challenging dip in form for the Serbian former world No. 1, who has won only two titles since July last year.

Djokovic, who is making his debut in Acapulco, said he feels in a healthier frame of mind since his travails of recent months.

“All in all, I feel that I’m in a much better state of mind than maybe I was at the end of last year. So I keep on going. I love this sport. That’s why I’m playing it. That’s why I’m here. I’m just hoping that I can stay healthy and as dedicated as best as I can be,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic, who plays Slovakia’s Martin Klizan in the first round, admitted going out in Melbourne so early had come as a shock. “I haven’t experienced the first-week Australian Open loss for many years,” said Djokovic.

“But it’s kind of normal and expected to go through those times when you’re not playing as best as you can maybe, as best as you want to be, or maybe the opponent has an amazing day. It’s sport. You have to deal with it, and you can always learn much more from the losses.”

In early round action on Monday, American eighth seed John Isner was upset by compatriot Steve Johnson, going down in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Fifth seed David Goffin had no such difficulty however, breezing past France’s Stephane Robert 6-1, 6-2. — Agencies