Defending champion Novak Djokovic has overcome a slow start to make it through to the second round of the Qatar Open in Doha.
The former world No.1 eventually beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 but not before the powerful world No.63 got off to a flying start.
Struff threw caution to the wind early to take a 4-0 lead as he hit a slew of winners and at one stage won nine straight points on the Djokovic serve, before the 12-time grand slam winner came roaring back.
Djokovic took his first game of the match to make the score 4-1 and then twice broke the German’s serve to level the first set at 5-5 before taking it in a tiebreak, in which he stamped his authority.
“I guess I had to get more time to get the engine started,” Djokovic said.
“It’s first match of the year. You never know how you’re going to start. I was a bit flat on my feet, and Struff, credit to him for playing aggressive, hitting the serves well, and ripping the ball from the baseline.”
The second-ranked Serb broke serve in the first and last games of the second set to close out the match.
“I stayed composed because I knew, I believed that I could find the rhythm, start reading his serve better, and that’s what happened,” Djokovic said.
“Certainly I can play better. But, again, it’s first match of the year. I know that I can’t be at my top the very first match, but I believe that the process is right.”
Djokovic will now play Argentine journeyman Horacio Zeballos in the second round. Zeballos saw off German world No.50 Florian Mayer 6-7 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (11-9) i n his opening round match.
Belgian fourth seed David Goffin also advanced to the second round with a straight sets 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win over Dutchman Robin Haase and awaits either Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco or Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
Joining them in the second round are veteran Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who beat Italian Pablo Lorenzi 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 and flamboyant German Dustin Brown who knocked over Argentine Facundo Bagnis 6-1 6-7 (7-2) 6-4.
World No.1 Andy Murray will start his 2017 season on Tuesday when he takes on Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.