Wawrinka wins thriller on return to Dubai
Stan Wawrinka needed a set and a half to get comfortable on his return to the Dubai Tennis Championships on Tuesday but he pulled out a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 first-round win over Sergiy Stakhovsky.
The double Grand Slam-winning Swiss last played the event eight years ago and looked to be ready for the first flight back out as he trailed by a set and a break to his Ukrainian opponent.
The meeting between the pair was the second in as many weeks after Wawrinka saved two match points before beating the world number 92 in Marseille.
The Swiss admitted he found it tough to adjust to fast night conditions, and had his troubles in the early stages. But he suddenly found enough form to win five games in a row, levelling at a set each with an ace.
Wawrinka earned victory in the third, breaking for 6-5 and finishing off a game later with his first match point after two hours and more than 50 unforced errors.
"It's good for confidence but it was a tough match first match, I wasn't playing well at all," Wawrinka said. "I was struggling with the conditions, with my game. The court is fast, the balls were flying.
"I was hesitating, always being behind. It's tough to play especially against him, who doesn't give you too much rhythm.
"It's a good win, a great win for me. Not playing well, still winning, still fighting, still finding a way, playing a little bit better at the end, trying to be the aggressive player on the court.
"It's good to have a chance to play better tomorrow."
Wawrinka faces unknown Croatian qualifier Franko Skugor, who beat Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 6-3.
Australian Nick Kyrgios was at his quirkiest against seventh seed Martin Klizan, putting all of his distractions on display in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win to mark his Dubai debut.
Last week's Marseille champion played at lightning-quick pace, barely sat down during changeovers and even complained about music coming from the nearby player party on the lawns outside the stadium.
The Australian, who only arrived in Dubai in the morning, at times looked not to be working too hard in the first set. But his performance proved to be too much for Slovak Klizan, who by the end of the contest was muttering to himself in frustration.
Kyrgios said his form was not totally there after arriving from Europe. "I was not feeling 100 percent, but I competed today.
"I left it all on court, I'm happy I got through. Conditions here are so different, so much quicker. I couldn't even adapt during practice."
Third seed Tomas Berdych marked his tenth appearance at the event with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Joao Sousa.
The Czech, who arrived in the Gulf after a Marseille semi-final, has twice finished beaten finalist at the Aviation Club.
He will next face 144th-ranked Thomas Fabbiano after the Italian defeated Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 6-4.
Berdych double-faulted on a first match point but fired over an ace on the second to advance.
"He was struggling in the first set, he could only get better," the winner said.
"He started to play a little bit more solid, a little bit more aggressive from his forehand side, his stronger one.
"He pushed me a bit more, but overall my performance was quite good. it's good to go through and not make things too complicated."
Spanish fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut kept up the winning pace he has established this season as he claimed his 15th victory of 2016, defeating Italian Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-4.
Spain's number three has made his best career start and already owns trophies in Auckland and Sofia.
German eighth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Marsel Ilhan 6-1, 7-5, while Croatian youngster Borna Coric defeated Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 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.
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