(February 25, 2013) Dubai UAE - Roger Federer began the defense of his title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday but he was stretched to three sets before overcoming Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.
Jaziri showed no sign of nerves as he competed on equal terms throughout the opening set, before breaking to lead 6-5 when Federer netted a backhand.
Federer responded to losing the first set by sweeping through the second with ease, as Jaziri failed even to earn a game point until he trailed 5-0. Even so, it was Jaziri who earned the first opportunity in the final set, holding a break point to lead 2-1.
But he made an error on his return and Federer recovered to win that game and then from 2-2 the number two seed gave up just three points in the last four games.
“I had rocky starts to the tournament here in previous years,” said Federer. “And, you know, I played somewhat fast so there was not much rhythm out there. I think we were both not playing really well in the beginning.
“We were both missing a lot of first serves, or him in particular. I think because I couldn’t take advantage I went from not so good to really not so good, and then he got better naturally, which I was hoping to do as well.
“Then, for me, it was important to sort of react and make sure I don’t panic. It was a difficult match for me out there tonight, but I’m happy I found a way. Just maybe the pressure is off a little bit, and then automatically I will play a lot better the second round.”
Former two-time finalist and number eight seed Mikhail Youzhny was also taken to three sets, losing the opening four games before recovering to beat Blaz Kavcic 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
After leveling at one set all Youzhny had to be patient before getting a breakthrough in the third. That came at 3-2 when Kavcic double-faulted on break point.
“It was bad start for me,” said Youzhny. “Like first half an hour, first set, I played so many mistakes. He helped me a little bit actually in the beginning of the second set. First game he made two double faults, one mistake. After the break was a little bit easy, you know.”
Andreas Seppi defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 7-5. The seventh-seeded Italian had never won a main draw match in his five previous visits to Dubai and he had lost all of his previous four matches against Mathieu.
In other matches, Roberto Bautista Agut lined himself up for a possible clash with top seed Novak Djokovic when he defeated David Goffin 6-2, 7-5. In a contest between two qualifiers, Daniel Brands defeated Florent Serra 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, Lukas Rosol overcame qualifier Matteo Viola 6-3, 7-5 and Somdev Devverman defeated another qualifier, Igor Kunitsyn, 6-1, 6-4.
Six of the world’s top 10 are competing in Dubai this week, with world No. 1 and three-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic attempting to reclaim his crown against not only Federer but Sunday’s Marseilles winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marseilles runner-up Tomas Berdych, 2013 Chennai champion Janko Tipsarevic and recent Rotterdam winner Juan Martin Del Potro.
RESULTS – MONDAY, 25 FEBRUARY 2013
Singles – First Round
 R Federer (SUI) d [WC] M Jaziri (TUN) 57 60 62
 A Seppi (ITA) d P Mathieu (FRA) 63 75
 M Youzhny (RUS) d B Kavcic (SLO) 16 61 63
R Bautista Agut (ESP) d D Goffin (BEL) 62 75
L Rosol (CZE) d [Q] M Viola (ITA) 63 75
[PR] S Devvarman (IND) d [Q] I Kunitsyn (RUS) 61 64
[Q] D Brands (GER) d [Q] F Serra (FRA) 76(7) 64
Doubles – First Round
 M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) d M Baghdatis (CYP) / D Goffin (BEL) 64 61
N Davydenko (RUS) / D Norman (BEL) d [WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / M Djokovic (SRB) 46 63 10-4
SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2013
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
 J Tipsarevic (SRB) vs N Davydenko (RUS)
Not Before 4:00 PM
 J Del Potro (ARG) vs M Baghdatis (CYP)
Not Before 7:00 PM
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs V Troicki (SRB)
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs M Llodra (FRA)
COURT 1 start 12:00 noon
R Bautista Agut (ESP) / A Seppi (ITA) vs J Erlich (ISR) / M Youzhny (RUS)
Not Before 2:00 PM
V Hanescu (ROU) vs B Tomic (AUS)
M Granollers (ESP) vs A Montanes (ESP)
Not Before 6:00 PM
[WC] R Ram (USA) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
COURT 3 start 2:00 pm
T Kamke (GER) vs M Kukushkin (KAZ)
 R Lindstedt (SWE) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs E Butorac (USA) / P Hanley (AUS)
[WC] D Tursunov (RUS) vs J Hajek (CZE)
Follow photographer Nida Alibhai’ coverage of Dubai on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN.