Barring an early hiccup, Andy Murray’s first round in Dubai was a fairly smooth success over Tunisian Malek Jaziri, who started well but could not sustain his level and later said he suffered from dizzy spells during the match on Tuesday.
Murray, competing in the Dubai tournament for the first time since 2015, needed just 79 minutes to skip past the 51st-ranked Jaziri 6-4, 6-1 and set up a second round with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
“The second set was obviously a bit easier. First set, especially the beginning, was tough. You know, first match is never easy, and playing someone who – you know, he goes for it and he takes chances,” said the world No1.
“So a little bit uneasy. I have never hit with him or played against him before. It took a little bit of time to get used to his game. But I played better as the match went on. The only thing I didn't do well was the first serve. I didn't hit my first serve that well. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe first match under the lights, haven't practiced in those conditions since I have been here. The second serve was very good. The rest went well.”
Jaziri had the better start, putting pressure on the Murray serve and breaking first on a lucky net cord for a 2-1 lead.
The tennis audience is typically quite a sophisticated bunch – they know when to applaud, when to be quiet, when to yell their ‘vamoses’ and ‘allez’ and when to stay put.
But there is one particular moment when all protocol and etiquette jumps out the window and that is when a player takes off his shirt to put on a dry one. Whistles and screams immediately ensue no matter where the tournament is taking place.
Dubai is no exception and when Murray changed his shirt on Tuesday during a visit by the physio to his opponent Malek Jaziri, the crowd erupted.
I asked Murray what goes through his mind when that happens.
“Yeah, it doesn't happen that often,” he said with a self-deprecating smile.
This time last year, Pouille was ranked No88 in the world and needed to play in the qualifying rounds before he reached fell in his main draw opener to Vasek Pospisil.
Today, the 23-year-old Frenchman is ranked No15 and seeded No7 in the Dubai tournament after a stellar 2016 saw him rocket up the standings.
“Well, I guess it's going to be like this for a few months,” Pouille said with a smile.
“I mean, I hope so, for a few years. It's good. It means I had a good year. I had a lot of victories and all this stuff. Yeah, obviously I'm very happy to come back here this year.”
Pouille had to deal with a quick turnaround between his final appearance in Marseille on Sunday and his first round in Dubai on Tuesday afternoon.