Novak Djokovic held off a threat from tough-as-nails Czech Tomas Machac, struggling to a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1) win into the second round of the ATP event in Dubai on Tuesday.
The world No. 1 who has set a record by starting his 378th week at the top of the rankings, was surprised by his No. 130 opponent, a lucky loser from qualifying.
Djokovic found himself in a third set, but established a 4-1 lead which likely would have meant a quicker victory.
But Machac had other ideas, fighting back to take the match into a deciding tiebreaker where Djokovic finally got the upper hand.
The Serb dominated in the decider, putting it to bed on the first of five match points with a forehand winner to the corner in two and a half hours..
“He didn’t play like 130 in the world,” Djokovic said. “He was giving me all kinds of trouble”
“But when it mattered, I found an extra gear.”
The top seed was playing for the first time since winning a `10th Australian Open a month ago and resting a controversial hamstring injury.
“Physically you can always be better: I demand the highest standards and preparation. I’ve been struggling with injury for several weeks.
“It took time to get used to holding the racquet again. But as the tournament progresses I hope I can raise my level.”
Djokovcictook an early 3-1 lead with a break but was unable to stand firm, with Machac getting it straight back.
But the experienced Serb struck again to set a 4-2 pace and regained momentum to rescue the first set 6-2, wrapping it up on the first of three chances.
Machac took the initiative in the second set with a break for 2-0, stretching to 3-0 as Djokovic drove a return wide.
The 35-year-old top seed saved a pair of break points in the fourth game to avoid going down a double break, finally getting on the scoreboard 1-3, but eventually losing the set.
The pair traded breaks again in the final set before Djokovic revved up his game to slip away with the win.
Machac ended with 36 winners – 23 of them in the dramatic final set. Djokovic is looking to earn his sixth title at the event.
Main photo:- Novak Djokovic won his 10th Australian Open title last month but struggled to get past Tomas Machac today in Dubai