Doha - Qatar
Open top seed, Austria's Dominic Thiem, won a hard-fought opening round
match in Doha on Monday, beating Russia's Evgeny Donskoy in straight
sets 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
The world No 5 was pushed hard by his opponent, especially in the first set where Donskoy threatened an early upset.
he won in a tie break, before breaking the Russian's serve twice in the
second set, in the sixth and ninth games, to claim victory.
one of the players predicted to break through this year amid injury
concerns for the game's traditional big stars, hit more than 30 winners
to secure his passage into the second round.
Afterwards he denied
there was more pressure on players such as himself to succeed this year,
because of injuries to Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray and
an ageing Roger Federer.
"It was the same situation last year, and
then Roger and Rafa came out like rockets and dominated the season,"
the 24-year-old told reporters.
"I think it can happen the same this year. If they come back strong, it can happen the same.
I go into this season like I did into the last, I want to do the best
for myself and also watch out that I avoid the injuries myself and don't
look too much who is out or who is in."
Defending champion Djokovic withdrew from the Qatar Open two days before the tournament started with a persistent elbow injury.
has won the title for the past two seasons in Qatar, beating Nadal in
the 2016 final and Murray last year in a three-set thriller.
Second and third seeds Pablo Carreno Busta and Tomas Berdych play their opening round matches on Tuesday.
Busta, ranked No 10 in the world and the second seed in Doha, said
the opportunities were there for other players to claim this year's
Grand Slam titles.
"If Rafa, Federer, Murray or Djokovic plays at his best level, it will be very difficult for us to win a Grand Slam," he said.
if we continue improving - because I think that, for example, Dimitrov
or Goffin, they are playing really good and they finish the season
playing really, really good.
"Why not also me? We can do it."