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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Philipp Kohlschreiber makes winning return to ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships a year after Andy Murray marathon

Kohlschreiber has more straightforward outing on Monday, booking place in second round with 6-4, 6-2 victory over qualifier from France

Philipp Kohlschreiber looked assured in his first-round performance and will be the favourite for his second-round match. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Philipp Kohlschreiber looked assured in his first-round performance and will be the favourite for his second-round match. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

A little less than 12 months ago, Philipp Kohlschreiber was involved in the most nail-biting tie-break the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships had ever seen.

It lasted 31 minutes and a record-equalling 38 points and Kohlschreiber, playing at his maximum capabilities, had seven match points to eliminate then world No 1 Andy Murray in the quarter-finals. Instead, Murray sealed the breaker before marching through the deciding set and on to the title.

Kohlschreiber, the world No 33, was back in Dubai on Monday for the first time since that marathon exchange to get his 2018 campaign up and running. The 34-year-old German had a far more straightforward outing this time out, booking his place in the second round with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Gleb Sakharov, the qualifier from France.

The memory from last year’s epic may still live long in Kohlschreiber’s mind, but the German is far more focused on what is ahead.

“I know it was a very entertaining match. It was great atmosphere, I think one of the best I ever experienced,” Kohlschreiber said in reference to his match against Murray. “But at the end I also lost in the quarter-finals. I couldn't say it was a great success from the tournament side. It was a great success how I played tennis.

“Of course, I know I can play really great tennis, especially here in these conditions. That gives me a lot of confidence for this year that I do well, I can go deep.”

Kohlschreiber looked assured in his first-round performance and will be the favourite for his second-round match when he takes on Greek wild card Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in the first match on Court One on Monday.

“I'm happy with my performance,” Kohlschreiber said. “First match, you always adjust a little bit. But I felt comfortable in my game, very solid, moved my opponent well and served well. Overall I think it was a good match.

“I feel always very comfortable here. Dubai is a great city, it's a great tournament. It makes it a little bit easier to play good tennis.”

Roberto Bautista Agut, the highest seed to take to the courts on Monday, also made safe passage to the second round, dispatching Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court.

The Spanish world No 23, seeded third in Dubai this week, was broken three times on serve but five breaks of his own ensured victory. However, Bautista Agut insisted that it was impressive returning, and not vulnerable serving, that was the cause of all the service breaks.

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Roberto Bautista Agut made safe passage to the second round, dispatching Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Roberto Bautista Agut made safe passage to the second round, dispatching Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4. Francois Nel / Getty Images

“I felt great on the court,” he said. “He was mixing up his game, and he was playing very aggressive on the return. We made a lot of good returns, both of us. We did a lot of breaks on the match. I think I did a great job.”

Bautista Agut, 29, will face either Portugal’s Joao Sousa or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the third round.

Dutchman Robin Haase survived a scare against French qualifier Quentin Halys to book his place in the second round.

Haase, the world No 43, recovered from a break down in the final set to emerge victorious 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in two hours and 15 minutes. Haase, 30, will face either top seed Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria or Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri for a place in the third round.