• ATP Tour

Shaky start for Federer in Dubai

ESPN staff
February 25, 2013
Tunisian Malek Jaziri took the fight to Roger Federer and won the first set © Getty Images

Roger Federer's bid for a sixth Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title got off to a shaky start with a 5-7 6-0 6-2 first-round victory over Tunisian wild-card Malek Jaziri.

Second seed Federer, chasing a sixth title in Garhoud, looked to be in complete control on serve but struggled to break down Jaziri in the first set, allowing three break points to come and go in the first 10 games.

And the Swiss paid the price when a loose volley and a double fault suddenly handed Jaziri his first break points of the match at 5-5. It got better for the world No. 128 as he was gifted the chance to serve for the set when Federer dumped a backhand slice into the net.

Jaziri, who has plied his trade on the lower-tier Challenger and Futures circuits for most of his career, made light work of serving out the set, sealing it with a clean backhand winner down the line.

Any hint of nerves shown by Federer in the closing stages of the first set quickly disappeared at the start of the second as the Swiss broke in the second game courtesy of a Jaziri double-fault, and he soon moved out to a 3-0 lead.

Jaziri, playing his first match since October 2012 and with his left knee heavily strapped, was visibly wilting as Federer's comeback continued apace. He sealed a second successive break by running around a second serve to his backhand to blast a cross-court forehand that the 29-year-old simply could not handle.

Another quick Federer hold left Jaziri serving to avoid a bagel - and to give himself the chance of serving at the start of the final set - but Federer levelled the match when the Tunisian sent a wild forehand well wide on set point.

It was an emphatic response from the 17-time grand slam champion, who had trailed for just 23 minutes, but Jaziri was not done yet. He stopped Federer's seven-game run to level at 1-1 and brought up the first break point of the set in game three, only to send his forehand return long.

Federer held, and with that Jaziri's challenge faded. With his movement hampered, he struggled to keep pace with Federer who broke for a 4-2 lead and stopped the match clock at one hour and 30 minutes.

Mikhail Youzhny also had to come from a set down to beat Blaz Kavcic, eventually winning 1-6 6-1 6-3.

Eighth seed Youzhny has reached the final in Dubai twice, in 2007 and in 2010, during his previous 11 appearances at the event and will play German Daniel Brands in the next round. But the 31-year-old Russian was unhappy at his first showing in this year's tournament.

"It was a bad start for me, in the first half hour, first set, I played so many mistakes," he said.

In other matches seventh seed Andreas Seppi reached the second round of the tournament at the sixth time of asking by beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3 7-5.

Seppi was denied a second-round meeting with compatriot Matteo Viola after he lost to Lukas Rosol 6-3 7-5.

The Czech player is most famed for beating Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon last year.

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