Dubai, UAE, March 1, 2017: Defending champion Stan Wawrinka slumped to a shock opening round defeat at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, beaten 7-6 (4) 6-3 by 77th ranked Damir Dzumhur. It is the first time since 2008, when Andy Murray beat Roger Federer, that the defending champion has lost in the first round. But top-seeded Murray had little difficulty overcoming Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-4 6-1, and two-time finalist and number five seed Tomas Berdych eased into the second round when Lukas Rosol retired injured with Berdych leading 6-3 2-1 30-0.
Second-seeded Wawrinka got off to a perfect start, breaking serve in the second game and leading 3-0, but Dzumhur then settled and offered more resistance, levelled at 4-4 and then claimed the tiebreak. Dzumhur then broke to lead 3-1 in the second set and again for 5-1, served three double-faults and was broken as he served for the match, but safely served out the match at his second opportunity.
Wawrinka is still not fully recovered from a knee injury and said, 'I think I start well, but it was tough match, a little bit missing. I think after coming back one month out, I had to recover from the injury. In practice it start to be okay the last few days, but today I was missing a little bit something. I think he start also to play a bit better, to put a little bit more first serve, to put a little bit more pressure. Physically I was a little bit slow sometimes, so I couldn't hit that hard from the baseline to push him back.'
Dzumhur played inspired tennis at times, but he admitted he was struggling at the start to make any impression at all upon the match.
'Yeah, I mean, three games in, like, six, seven minutes. He was playing outstanding there,' said Dzumhur. 'Was just hitting every ball. I couldn't even touch the ball. I didn't have a chance to do something. So I knew that it's not too much about my game. It's about his day. If he's going to play like that, he's gonna win, I cannot do anything. I was hoping that he's gonna go down with his level of game, and that's what happened.
'I was, after winning the first game, I started to fight, to grind, and I found some way to play, to stay in the game. Playing longer points was giving me more chances. I mean, you just start to fight, and then the game is coming to you. You are feeling your shots better and better.'
Murray was broken in the third game but immediately broke back for 2-2, and he then broke a second time at 5-4 to take the opening set. In the second set Jaziri suddenly called for the tournament medical team when trailing 1-2, 0-40, later telling Murray he had felt dizzy and unwell. When play resumed Murray broke to lead 3-1 and then again for 5-1.
'The second set was obviously a bit easier. First set, especially the beginning, was tough,' said Murray. 'You know, first match is never easy, and playing someone who goes for it and he takes chances. So, you know, a little bit uneasy. It took a little bit of time to get used to his game but I played better as the match went on. The only thing I didn't do well was the first serve. I didn't hit my first serve that well. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe first match under the lights, haven't practiced in those conditions since I have been here. The second serve was very good. The rest went well.'
There were also wins for qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, who earned a second round clash with Roger Federer by beating former two-time Dubai runner-up Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-4, and Fernando Verdasco who defeated Andreas Seppi 6-2 7-5 after Seppi had stepped in for the ailing Florian Mayer. Qualifier Marius Copil beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-2, Daniil Medvedev defeated UAE wild card Omar Alawadhi 6-2 7-5 and Robin Haase overcame qualifier Denis Istomin 6-2 6-4. Seventh seed Lucas Pouille breezed past Adam Pavlasek 6-2 6-2 and Daniel Evans beat Dustin Brown 6-2 6-3.
'We congratulate Damir Dzumhur for his remarkable victory over our defending champion,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. 'It was impressive indeed to see how he fought his way into the match and ultimately outplayed the three-time Grand Slam winner. We wish him well during the rest of the week. Andy Murray looked strong and has come very close to winning the title before, and it will be interesting to see if he can take that extra step this year.'
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, 'The tournament is now well underway, and such is the strength and depth of the competition we have already seen our defending champion beaten. With the world number one and seven-time champion among those in action on day three, tennis fans are guaranteed more fantastic entertainment.'
Play continues until 4th March and includes Wimbledon, Olympic and ATP World Tour Finals champion and world number one Andy Murray, Australian Open champion and seven-time Dubai winner Roger Federer, two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and the entertaining Gael Monfils.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.