x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai Tennis Championships: Tired Tsonga crashes out to Llodra

Novak Djokovic eases through,but the Frenchman fails to get his game going against the countryman whom he had beaten in all six previous meetings.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga went down to Michael Llodra, above, for the first time in seven meetings. Ali Haider / EPA
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga went down to Michael Llodra, above, for the first time in seven meetings. Ali Haider / EPA

DUBAI // Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the biggest opening-round casualty of the tournament last night when the Frenchman was knocked out by compatriot Michael Llodra.

Tsonga, the fifth seed here and world No 8, had arrived just a day earlier in Dubai after defeating Tomas Berdych for the Marseille Open title on Sunday.

Probably a bit jet-lagged, he did not look his usual self against the 32-year-old Llodra and lost 7-6, 6-2 in an hour and 19 minutes against an opponent he had beaten in all six of their previous duels.

"He came late from Marseille, so it was a little bit difficult for him," Llodra said. "But I also played a good game."

Llodra will next meet Russian wildcard Dmitry Tursunov, who defeated Jan Hajek 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 earlier in the day. The other seeds advanced into the next round.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic needed just 67 minutes last night to brush aside his compatriot Viktor Troicki and take his place in the second round.

A three-time Dubai champion, the world No 1 has not played competitive tennis since the Australian Open, but showed no rust in a 6-1, 6-4 win and will now meet the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut today for a place in the quarter-final.

Djokovic was pleased to start his campaign in such a convincing fashion, especially as he has not taken part in a tournament since becoming the first man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

"That was a great one, especially in the first set, considering the fact I haven't played an official tournament for three, four weeks," the Serbian said. "I wanted to be extra focused on the court today, because I also knew he has a big serve, as he had proved tonight, and can be very dangerous on these courts.

"This is one of the fastest hard courts on the tour that I have experienced outdoors. So you need to be really committed to every point and play well."

Both Serbians, Djokovic and Troicki share a bond off court, but that friendship mattered little at the Aviation Club as the world No 1 cruised through the first set in just 21 minutes.

The second set was a tighter affair as Troicki broke Djokovic once, but even then it did not take more than 45 minutes.

"Just a very poor game service-wise for me," said Djokovic, who was the champion here for three consecutive years - from 2009 to 2011 - before his 18-match winning streak in Dubai was brought to an end by Andy Murray in last year's semi-finals.

"I think out of maybe eight serves, I put maybe one or two first serves in the whole game. But OK, it was just a little drop of concentration, and it was very short. I'm glad that I managed to re-break right away."

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