Djokovic battles back after season-opening Qatar scare

By Peter Thompson 2 January 2017 97
Djokovic battles back after season-opening Qatar scare

Novak Djokovic blew off the cobwebs, eventually, to beat Jan-Lennard Struff and reach the second round of the Qatar Open in his first match of the season.

But his opening salvo of 2017 went anything but to plan, as he lost the first four games against the German before rallying for victory.

Djokovic went into the match having stated he felt refreshed after a break that followed losing his world number one status and his decision to part company with coach Boris Becker.

However, the 12-time grand slam champion looked in danger of starting the year with an embarrassing defeat until he finally hit his stride to win 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

The 63rd-ranked Struff raced to an early advantage, with Djokovic seemingly still in holiday mode, but the defending champion then reeled off six games in a row to force a tie-break.

Back to his old self, the Serb then dominated the shoot-out and broke twice in the second set to go through.

Struff fired down nine aces in his first meeting with Djokovic, who won 85 per cent of points on his first serve and saved three break points to thwart the German underdog and set up a meeting with Horacio Zeballos.

Meanwhile, David Goffin, beaten by Rafael Nadal in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship final on New Year's Eve, saw off Robin Haase 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

There were also victories for Nicolas Almagro, Jiri Vesely and Dustin Brown in Qatar.

In India, sixth seed Borna Coric fell at the first hurdle at the Chennai Open - beaten by South Korean Hyeon Chung 6-3 7-5.

Belgian Steve Darcis, qualifier Jozef Kovalik, Daniil Medvedev and Israel's Dudi Sela also made it through to round two of the hard-court tournament.

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Peter Thompson