Malek Jaziri, ATP 117th-ranked beat top seed and world number four Grigor Dimitrov in an epic battle here in Dubai.
Highlights and Scores of the day:
Malek Jaziri beat Grigor Dimitrov 4-6 7-5 6-4
Lucas Pouille beat Ernests Gulbis 6-4 6-4
Richard Gasquet beaten 6-4 6-3 by Borna Coric
Local favourite Malek Jaziri stunned top seed and world number four Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday night, beating the ATP Finals champion 4-6 7-5 6-4. Producing a performance of the highest order, 117th-ranked Jaziri kept the pressure on Dimitrov throughout their two hour 17-minute battle and emerged as a worthy winner.
There was little to choose between the pair from start to finish as both sought but failed to find an advantage in a match of short but fiercely contested points. In a dramatic final set, Dimitrov held two break points to lead 4-2 before being broken at love in the next game to leave Jaziri leading 4-3. The Tunisian went on to serve for the match at 5-4 but still the drama wasn’t over as Dimitrov held a break point to level at 5-5 before Jaziri finally claimed victory on his third match point.
“Great feeling today, first of all, to win my first top five,” said Jaziri. “I am really happy for that. I tried to fight every point since the beginning. Was so tight. Every time was longer on the court, so I was playing better, feeling more comfortable on court. I was really aggressive today. I tried hard to keep the ball in, tried hard to attack him, to make a lot of variety in the game today. This is most important.
“I feel so good here in Dubai. They give me a lot of opportunities in the past, like with wild cards. I got a lot of experience to playing top guys here in Dubai. I play last year Murray, the year before Novak, four or five years ago I play Federer as well. Dubai, it make me only to play top seeded! But I knew one day it would happen.”
Dimitrov has been recovering from illness and coughed frequently after the match, but he made no excuses and gave full credit to Jaziri.
“I mean, it is what it is. You have days like this that you can’t really do much else,” said a disappointed Dimitrov. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t play my game to the extent that I was looking for. Movement was not good over the court. I thought I served okay for a little bit, but then I lost my rhythm again. Of course, all the credit to Malek. He played a good game. He was strong throughout the whole match. Actually was hitting pretty good shots.”
Pouille Vs Gulbis
Second seed Lucas Pouille reached the second round by holding off qualifier Ernests Gulbis 6-4 6-4. Pouille, who this month has won the title in Montpellier and reached the final in Marseilles, admitted he was a little weary after his late arrival from Europe, and it was therefore no real surprise he was tested by Gulbis.
Only one break for 3-2 decided the first set and the Frenchman needed to hold off a break point as he served for the set. Then in the second he had to fight off five break points that would have given Gulbis an encouraging 2-0 lead. He responded to that threat though by then breaking Gulbis to love in the next game, and when Gulbis did break to level at 3-3 Pouille immediately responded again with another break to love.
“I knew it would be tough because I played only 20 minutes out there before the match. I arrived yesterday pretty late. I fell asleep around 4 or 5 am, so a bit tired. But I’m happy with what I did tonight. I won many matches the past three weeks, so I’m arriving here with a lot of confidence. I think that helped me in the tough moment. Especially in the breakpoints, I served pretty well and played good rallies. That’s very positive.”
Richard Gasquet Vs Borna Coric
Fifth seed and two-time semi-finalist Richard Gasquet became the first big name to fall when he was beaten 6-4 6-3 by Borna Coric.
Coric got off to a stunning start, giving up just one point in the first three games and winning 11 straight points as he established a 3-0 lead. Gasquet, suffering from a knee injury, managed to stage a brief comeback, holding two break back points at 1-3, saving a set point at 5-2 and breaking serve as Coric served at 5-3, before Coric broke again for the set.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with Coric speeding to a 3-0 lead, Gasquet breaking back in the seventh game but then dropping his own serve again to hand the initiative back to his grateful opponent. After taking a 5-3 lead on his fourth break point Coric served out the match to love.
Fourth seed Damir Dzumhur needed eight match points to beat qualifier Yannick Maden 6-3 6-4, and there were wins too for seventh seed Filip Krajinovic and eighth seed Yuichi Sugita.
“We could not have asked for a more exciting match tonight between Malek Jaziri and Grigor Dimitrov ,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Dimitrov had said upon arrival in Dubai that although he was the favourite to win the title everyone he played would try to play at the very top of their game to upset him, and so it proved to be. We wish Dimitrov well and look forward to seeing him here again next year.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Malek Jaziri has long been a favourite here in Dubai and his incredible victory has been well received. His performance was quite remarkable against an opponent who reached the final of his most recent tournament just over a week ago, and it will be very interesting to see how does in his next match.”