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Slow-starting Djokovic through in Doha

AAP logoAAP 2/01/2017

Defending champion Novak Djokovic has overcome a slow start to make it through to the second round of the Qatar Open in Doha.

The former world No.1 eventually beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 but not before the powerful world No.63 got off to a flying start.

Struff threw caution to the wind early to take a 4-0 lead as he hit a slew of winners and at one stage won nine straight points on the Djokovic serve, before the 12-time grand slam winner came roaring back.

Djokovic took his first game of the match to make the score 4-1 and then twice broke the German's serve to level the first set at 5-5 before taking it in a tiebreak, in which he stamped his authority.

"I guess I had to get more time to get the engine started," Djokovic said.

"It's first match of the year. You never know how you're going to start. I was a bit flat on my feet, and Struff, credit to him for playing aggressive, hitting the serves well, and ripping the ball from the baseline."

The second-ranked Serb broke serve in the first and last games of the second set to close out the match.

"I stayed composed because I knew, I believed that I could find the rhythm, start reading his serve better, and that's what happened," Djokovic said.

"Certainly I can play better. But, again, it's first match of the year. I know that I can't be at my top the very first match, but I believe that the process is right."

Djokovic will now play Argentine journeyman Horacio Zeballos in the second round. Zeballos saw off German world No.50 Florian Mayer 6-7 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (11-9) in his opening round match.

Belgian fourth seed David Goffin also advanced to the second round with a straight sets 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win over Dutchman Robin Haase and awaits either Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco after he downed Canadian Vasek Pospisil 7-5 6-0.

Joining them in the second round are veteran Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who beat Italian Pablo Lorenzi 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 and flamboyant German Dustin Brown who knocked over Argentine Facundo Bagnis 6-1 6-7 (7-2) 6-4.

World No.1 Andy Murray will start his 2017 season on Tuesday when he takes on Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

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