Marin Cilic may be seeded sixth and ranked sixth internationally, but he is the player, no other tour player wants to play right now. In his first round match at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Tournament, the surging Croatian showed why. Cilic, who has won two AP tour events this year and who sports a spectacular 16-1 won-lost record, dismissed Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4 in just ninety minutes.
Cilic is looking to add Dubai to his Aircel Chennai Open and PBZ Zagreb Indoors titles this season. The 21-year old reached the semis in the Australian Open and has been on a roll ever since. Against Clement, the Croatian fired 13 aces and withstood won all five of Clement’s break point opportunities.
Cilic next plays qualifying play-in Austrian Stefan Koubek who rallied in the first set to defeat Spain’s Feliciano Lopes, 7-6 (4), 6-4. The winner of this pairing will benefit from the withdrawal of Roger Fededer and advance to a third round pairing with either Federer fill-in Tommy Robredo or tough Austrian baseliner Jurgen Melzer.
Robredo made the most of his top of the board placement, winning 28 of 34 service points while running through Julien Benneteau 6-1, 6-1. Melzer survived a second set run by Italian Simone Bolelli to move on with a 6-1, 7-5 win.
Prior to Cilic’s extended run, the tour’s hottest player was Nikolay Davydenko, the internationally fourth ranked and fourth seeded player at Dubai. This is Davydenko’s sixth trip to Dubai. Despite his 20 ATP tournament titles, this one has thus far eluded Russia’s top player. His 2010 record is a not too shabby 13-2. Yet, Davydenko seems to be tiring. He uncharacteristically struggled against France’s lightly regarded Florent Serra, dropping the first set tiebreaker before rallying for a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 triumph.
Davydenko was disappointed by Federer’s lung illness. After two successive wins against the number one, Davydenko was seeking to avenge his loss at the Australian Open.
The day’s most popular win took place on Court One where India’s Somdrev Devvarman, another qualifier, rode a 76% service win percentage past Swiss regular tour player, Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 7-5 in just 80 high-volume minutes. 50% of the Emirate population is of Indian descent, which will present an interesting hurdle for second round opponent Cypriot arcos Baghdatis.
In other first round action, Jo Willfried Tsonga fought off three first-set points to escape 7-6 (9) against another Frenchman Michael Llourda, who was forced to retire following the set. Tsonga moves on to play experienced Croatian Ivan Ljubicic in round two.
Attendance has exceeded previous records as all seats have been sold for the tournament.
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