DOHA, Qatar (AP) - Defending champion Novak Djokovic had a slow start to his first match of 2017 before prevailing 7-6 (1), 6-3 over Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round of the Qatar Open on Monday.
Second-seeded Djokovic trailed 4-0 in the opener before recovering to 5-5 and finally finding his form in the tiebreaker, where his 63rd-ranked German opponent won only one point.
“I guess I had to get more time to get the engine started,” Djokovic said. “It’s first match of the year. You never know how you’re going to start. 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.”
The second-ranked Serb broke serve in the first and last games of the second set to close out the match.
“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 said.
“Certainly I can play better. But, again, it’s first match of the year. I know that I can’t be at my top the very first match, but I believe that the process is right.”
Djokovic next plays Horacio Zeballos, who beat Florian Mayer 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (9).
Fourth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium also advanced with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
Top-seeded Andy Murray plays 69th-ranked Jeremy Chardy of France in his opener on Tuesday.
Murray, who took the top ranking from Djokovic at the end of last year, was in action on Monday with Mariusz Fyrstenberg in the doubles. The pair lost to David Marrero and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2, 6-4.
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