DUBAI: Filip Krajinovic struggled to overcome a gallant Malek Jaziri in a thrilling first-round battle at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday.
The Serbian, who like his Tunisian opponent had reached the semifinals in 2018, edged his way to a 6-7 6-2 6-4 victory in a highly entertaining two hours 18 minutes.
Although it was Krajinovic who made the better start by leading 3-0, Jaziri levelled at 3-3, saved a set point on his serve at 5-4 with an ace and then took the tiebreak 7-4. The second set saw Krajinovic go up a level as he dropped just four points on serve and broke to lead 2-1 and 5-2. The 38-year-old Jaziri remained strongly in contention in the third, before calling for treatment when leading 4-3.
At that stage Krajinovic was under severe pressure at deuce on his serve, but when play resumed he held for 4-4 and then won a decisive break to lead 5-4 before serving out the match.
Qualifier Jiri Vesely earned a surprise 6-4 7-6 victory over Marin Cilic to also reach the second round. Cilic, a former US Open champion and world number three, had recently claimed an impressive win over world number six Andrey Rublev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open, while Vesely had failed to win a main draw match in his three previous visits to Dubai.
Cilic began by holding the first game of the match at love, but then saw his opponent win 15 of the next 17 points to hold three points to lead 4-1 before Cilic steadied and held serve again in the fifth game. Vesely went on to win the set, surrendering just five points on his serve, and then broke to lead 2-0 in the second.
Cilic eventually began to offer greater resistance midway through the set, holding a break point for 3-3, saving three break points to hold for 3-4, fighting off three match points on his serve at 5-3 and then breaking for the first time as Vesely served for the match at 5-4. The set then went to a tiebreak which Vesely won 7-3.
Another qualifier reached the second round as Taro Daniel defeated David Goffin 6-3 7-6.
“We have already enjoyed a very exciting contest as Malek Jaziri fought right to the very end in a match that remained in the balance to the final ball. We wish him well during the rest of the season, and congratulate Filip Krajinovic, Jiri Vesely and Taro Daniel on their wins today,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak said: “The outstanding quality of the field competing for the trophy this week is underlined by the fact that two of the seeds come into Dubai having just won tournaments, with 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut capturing his 10th career ATP Tour title in Doha on Saturday and Andrey Rublev yesterday winning his ninth career ATP Tour title in Marseille.”
“With so many top stars bidding for the title this week demand for tickets is strong, and we urge anyone planning to attend to purchase their tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”