Images- Samer Al Rejjal
The first day of action at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open saw number one seed Dominic Thiem book his place in the next round with a straight-sets victory over Russian opponent Evgeny Donskoy 7-6, 6-3.
Donskoy put up a spirited effort in the first set, pushing the current fifth in the World to a tiebreaker. However, Theim showed his class in the second set breaking the serve of his opponent twice to set up an encounter with Aljaz Bedene or Malek Jaziri in the next round.
Reflecting on the win, Theim admitted he was happy with his first outing of the season. "I think it was a good victory because of a tough opponent, after a pretty long period without any matches, it got pretty close in the first set. I had to save two set points, in the end, I'm satisfied with most parts of my game."
In the first match on centre court Russian youngster, Andrey Rublev took a commanding 6-1 first set lead against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany. However, the first Tour-Level meeting between the two players was short-lived, after Stebe retired after suffering an injured wrist.
Rublev will now progress to the round of 16 to face Fernando Verdasco, who came from a set down to defeat Dudi Sela 4-6,6-4,5-0. The Doha based player showed plenty of character and finished strongly beating his Israeli opponent 5-0 in the final set.
Nikoloz Basilashvili defeated Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano 6-4, 6-3 to book his place in the next round. The Georgian went through in straight sets, against Fabbiano who seemed to be struggling with a back injury throughout the match.
Reflecting on the match, Basilashvili was glad to start the season with a win. “ I’m very happy with how I played today, I am looking forward to playing in the next round, the first match of the season is always difficult and I’m very glad how the match went.”
In the final match on centre court, Greek qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas came from a set down to defeat German veteran Florian Mayer 6-4, 5-7, 4-6. The 19-year-old is tipped for big things this season and could set up a potential match with fifth seed Richard Gasquet in the second round.