Doha - Novak Djokovic battled back from 5-1 down against world number 63
Jan-Lennard Struff to claim his first victory of the season at the Qatar
Open on Monday.
The world number two lost his opening two service games and struggled with the German's big serves in the early exchanges.
But the Serb rallied in determined fashion to eventually take the first-round match 7-6 (7/1), 6-3.
"It wasn't a great start, I was 1-5 down, it didn't look very good," Djokovic said after winning in just under 90 minutes.
attributed his slow start to early-season rustiness rather than any
long-term concerns over his form, following a relatively poor second
half of the season in 2016.
"I guess I had to get more time to get
the engine started. It's the first match of the year, you never know
how you're going to start.
"I mean, I was a bit flat on my feet,
and Struff, credit to him for playing aggressive, hitting the serves
well, and ripping (the) ball from the baseline.
"But I stayed
composed because I knew, I believed that I could find the rhythm, start
reading his serve better, and that's what happened."
Djokovic, who is the defending champion in Doha, hit 17 winners but also 20 unforced errors.
In total, his opponent thundered down nine aces.
12-time Grand Slam winner is looking to reclaim his number one ranking
from Andy Murray, who is also in Doha, and is the tournament's number
If matches go to form the rivals will meet in a mouthwatering final on January 7.
the tournament, Murray said Djokovic would be his main rival this
season, but the Serb said 2017 would be about more than two players.
have the return of (Rafael) Nadal and (Roger) Federer that we cannot
count out in any circumstances because of their history and results and
the quality of players that they are," he said.
Also on Monday
there were victories for Dustin Brown, who edged past Argentina's
Facundo Bagnis in three sets in the first round of the singles, 6-1, 6-7
And number four seed, Belgium's David Goffin, who
beat Murray in an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week defeated Robin
Hasse of the Netherlands, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
Murray's begins his
attempt to win the Qatar Open, an event he last won in 2009, with a
first-round match against France's Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday.
newly knighted Scotsman though was in action in the doubles on Monday,
but he and partner Mariusz Fyrstenberg lost in straight sets to David
Marrero and Nenad Zimonjic.
Results from the ATP Qatar Open in Doha on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) bt Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-3
Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Anil Yuksel (TUR) 6-2, 6-3
Dustin Brown (GER) bt Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 6-1, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4
David Goffin (BEL x4) bt Robin Haase (NED) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Radek Stepanek (CZE) bt Marcos Baghdatis (CYP x8) 6-4, 5-3 retired
Horacio Zeballos (ARG) bt Florian Mayer (GER) 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-6 (11/9)
Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 (7/1), 6-3