Novak Djokovic won on his return to the ATP Tour following his Australian Open triumph but he had to work hard to beat Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 6-3 3-6 7-6(1) in his Dubai Tennis Championships opener on Tuesday.
Djokovic, who surpassed Steffi Graf’s record for the most weeks as world No 1 moved with ease and showed no lingering effects of the hamstring tear he managed at Melbourne Park last month.
But there were some signs of rust, especially on Djokovic’s serve, which seemed to fail him midway through the opening set, before he regained control and took the early advantage in the match when Machac sent a return long.
The five-time Dubai champion was in a spot of bother while trailing 3-0 in the next set after dropping serve again and made 16 unforced errors to allow big-hitting Machac to take the contest into a decider.
Machac began to struggle with a right wrist issue early in the third set and Djokovic pounced for a 3-1 lead but the Czech mounted a comeback with a break of his own to level at 4-4 with some superb ball-striking along the way.
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Machac blinked first in the tiebreak and Djokovic did not need another invitation as he finally quelled the world number 130 to extend his 2023 winning streak to 13 matches.
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