Holder Novak Djokovic had to stop the rot in a sloppy second set before salvaging an opening defeat of Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Barclays Championships on Monday.
Third seed Andy Murray joined in with some opening day uncertainty of his own, looking tentative at the start of his first match since losing the Australian Open final to Roger Federer three weeks ago. But the Scot survived a monster second game lasting 24 minutes, 14 deuces and nine break points — second longest by time in ATP history — to emerge a winner over Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-2, 6-3.
Murray admitted he got more than he might have wished in the opening encounter. “It was really tough at the start,” said the Scot.
“It was certainly the longest game I’ve played.
“But I came through after I got comfortable. This is a fast court and you can get a lot of free points on serve,” said the author of 13 aces — two on the last three points of the one hour, 41-minute match.
Serb world number two Djokovic had a comfortable lead of a set and 5-0 when his Garcia Lopez suddenly began to threaten.
Djokovic eventually pulled it out on a third match point and admitted to a series of mental errors.
“It was not pleasant coming from 5-0 to 5-4 and him serving to get back into the match. But it was all my fault, I think I lost the focus. “I was playing well all the way and then just lost it. It’s the first match outdoors since Australia, so I’m still getting used to the conditions. I’m sure next match is going to be better.” Djokovic is keen to defend a title for the first time in his career and there’s no better place to start than the emirate where he won a year ago in the first of five trophy successes in 2009.
Marcos Baghdatis fought off waves of nausea for a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 upset victory, which spoiled the injury comeback scenario for French eighth seed Gilles Simon.
“The only thing I can say I fought through and that’s all,” said the Cypriot. “I didn’t feel too much. I was concentrating on not throwing up on the court or some points.
“It is food poisoning. I have cramps in the stomach, and I’ll go see a doctor and we’ll see what’s going to happen.” Simon, a former top ten player now ranked 18th after knee troubles, was playing in only his second event of the season after a first round loss last week in Marseille.
Baghdatis struggled to claim the 58-minute opening set, which he won in a tiebreaker before coming through.
“So I’ll have a day off and see how my stomach goes, see how I feel. Maybe I beat Gilles today, but if I’m not fit, I can lose to anybody,” said the number 37 who ended 2009 with the Stockholm trophy and began this season with title success at Sydney.