Top seed Novak Djokovic began his quest for a fifth Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Monday with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Tommy Robredo.
Djokovic, who last won the title in 2013 before losing to Roger Federer in the 2014 semi-finals and again in last year’s title match, is bidding to reach his 18th consecutive final, dating back to the 2015 Australian Open.
Robredo won their most recent meeting, so Djokovic was ready for a challenge and wary after not playing since he beat Andy Murray in the Australian Open final three weeks ago.
“He can be very tricky if you give him time, but I tried to take away that time from him,” said Djokovic.
“Obviously playing first match in three weeks, different conditions, I didn't know how I'm going to start, whether or not I'm going to execute the game plan as I prepared myself to. But everything went well. You know, very few things went wrong. I was putting constant pressure on his serve. I returned very well. Served solid and was aggressive from back of the court. I cannot be happier with this performance.”
The world number one will next face tournament wild card Malek Jaziri, who defeated qualifier Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-1.
Youzhny was playing the event for the 15th year and was a finalist in 2007 when he lost to Roger Federer and again in 2010 when he took Djokovic to three sets.
Jaziri, who handed Youzhny his first defeat of 2016, took a set from Federer in 2013, and in 2014 he reached the quarter-finals.
Two-time Dubai finalist Feliciano Lopez reached a career milestone with his 400th victory, beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1 4-6 6-4.
“Well, very happy first of all, because I think is a good number, 400 wins,” said Lopez. “Yeah, it's been long time since I start playing tennis, and I'm very happy that I have been able to achieve this number. It means that I was also very lucky in terms of I didn't have injuries during my career. I have been able to play for almost 15 years, so it was easier to get to this number.”
Other first day winners included exciting teenager Hyeon Chung who defeated Andreas Seppi 6-3 6-4, and Vasek Pospisil who struggled to overcome qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-3 5-7 6-4.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.