Doha: Day-1 wins for Rafico and Djokinovic

Opening day in Doha saw fans get up-close and personal with the top seeds, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played first-round doubles matches on two of the tournament’s more intimate courts. In just over an hour, Nadal and partner Juan Monaco defeated Leonado Mayer and Simone Bolleli…while Novak Djokovic and countryman Felip Krajinovic only allowed four-games to wild cards Jabor Mohammed Ali Mutawa of Qatar and Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.

On center court, Italy’s Simone Bolleli started 2015 with a second-set tie-break win over Baylor grad Benjamin Becker of Germany. Coming back from surgery, Bolleli started last year ranked outside the top-300. With four wins on the ATP Challenger tour in 2014, and a Semifinals appearance at the Challenger Finals in Brazil, he begins 2015 inside the top-55.

Richard Gasquet tweaked his back during his first match here in Doha last year, and despite being the defending champion, fell to Gael Monfils in the second round. This year, Gasquet looked fit. His court coverage and play at the net were phenomenal against Pablo Andujar, and he picked up the win in two sweaty sets – I think he changed the grip on his racket three or four times in 90 minutes.

Fernando Verdasco and Teymuraz Gabashvili did what they always do: Went the distance. Fernando dropped the first set, but immediately broke twice in the second and evened the match. The third went to a tie-break that saw long, pounding rallies where the two simply traded pace. Verdasco would overpower Gabashvili, then revealed after the match that he and Teymuraz were shocked when they heard the result of the draw…Before coming to Doha, the two had trained together in Miami for several days! In Fernando’s words: “All I could think was – come on, can’t my first opponent be someone other than THIS guy?”

Ivo Karlovic – 35-years-old and having more fun on the court than ever. He dissected Lukas Rosol with 27 aces, bringing his career total to 9022 aces. Only two other players have passed the 9000-mark: Andy Roddick and Goran Ivanisovic. Ivo said he’d really like to surpass Goran (10183), but that leaves well over a thousand remaining aces to whack (1161). Last year, Ivo reached four finals, but couldn’t convert for a sixth career title. He said he wasn’t frustrated by the results. In fact, he’s just happy to be healthy, climbing the rankings and playing well at his age. It shows.

Qualifying also wrapped-up on Day-1. Congrats to Nikoloz Basilashvili, Thiemo De Bakker, Blaz Kavcic and Michael Berrer who played through to the main draw. Yesterday, I met Berrer for the first time – very sharp guy. During our ride to the venue, we talked about how this would be his final year on tour. Now with two kids and a nearly completed Master’s degree, he’s ready to focus on the next phase of his life. I’m excited for him…especially knowing he has a chance to start-off his final year in a big way: His opponent in Round-1 tomorrow – Defending Champion, Rafael Nadal.

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Full Results – First Round singles matches:
[6] R Gasquet (FRA) d P Andujar (ESP) 63 75
[7] I Karlovic (CRO) d L Rosol (CZE) 76(4) 63
F Verdasco (ESP) d T Gabashvili (RUS) 46 63 76(4)
D Brown (GER) d P Lorenzi (ITA) 76(3) 63
S Bolelli (ITA) d B Becker (GER) 63 76(2)
I Dodig (CRO) d [WC] M Safwat (EGY) 63 61

Full results – First Round doubles matches:
[3] J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) d S Lipsky (USA) / R Ram (USA) 62 60
J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP) d S Bolelli (ITA) / L Mayer (ARG) 63 63
[WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / F Krajinovic (SRB) d [WC] J Ali Mutawa (QAT) / M Jaziri (TUN) 61 64
D Inglot (GBR) / F Mergea (ROU) d D Istomin (UZB) / M Youzhny (RUS) 64 67(3) 10-6

Full results – Third Round singles qualifying matches:
Qualifyng – N Basilashvili (GEO) d F Krajinovic (SRB) 63 63
Qualifying – B Kavcic (SLO) d R Ram (USA) 63 64
Qualifying – T de Bakker (NED) d F Dustov (UZB) 75 64
Qualifying – M Berrer (GER) d M Bachinger (GER) 67(3) 60 63
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Order of play for tomorrow: 6 January 2015

CENTER COURT start 3:30 pm
[3] T Berdych (CZE) vs D Istomin (UZB)
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs D Lajovic (SRB)
[2] R Nadal (ESP) vs [Q] M Berrer (GER)
[4] D Ferrer (ESP) vs [Q] T de Bakker (NED)

COURT 1 start 3:30 pm
[8] L Mayer (ARG) vs A Seppi (ITA)
J Souza (BRA) vs [WC] M Jaziri (TUN)
L Rosol (CZE) / S Stakhovsky (UKR) vs P Andujar (ESP) / A Seppi (ITA)
[2] A Qureshi (PAK) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs J Knowle (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT)

COURT 2 start 3:30 pm
J Monaco (ARG) vs [Q] B Kavcic (SLO)
[5] P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs J Struff (GER)
[4] I Dodig (CRO) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP)

COURT 3 start 3:30 pm
S Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [WC] J Ali Mutawa (QAT)
M Youzhny (RUS) vs [Q] N Basilashvili (GEO)
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs B Becker (GER) / A Sitak (NZL)