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Russia's Karen Khachanov in action en route to his first round win over Mikhail Kukushkin at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai resident Karen Khachanov and Philipp Kohlschreiber, the oldest player in the main draw this year, both moved into the second round of men’s singles with contrasting wins as the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open got under way on Monday.

Khachanov, who last year bought an apartment in Dubai, forced a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazkhstan while Germany’s 36-year-old Kohlschreiber got a good measure of his opponent before beating the Arab world’s highest ranked player Mohammad Safwat 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

A break down on two occasions in the opening set, Khachanov was pleased with his form heading into the second round where he will meet the winner of the match between qualifier Dennis Novak and Indian wild card Prajnesh Gunneswaran. “The opening match is never easy. The first round is pretty tough always. For me, it was important to get used to the conditions,” Khachanov said.

It was probably that first set that decided the ultimate outcome of the match. Each time Kukushkin made the move, Khachanov somehow managed to dig into his reserves and break back to send the set into a tie-break that the Russian won 7-2 in exactly an hour.

“I’m really happy I could get the win. I have another match, another opportunity to play better, like always, to improve. The most important is the win. I’m really happy with that. There were some difficult moments during the match. I was break down twice and that’s really great to keep that first set. I think it was an important one. In the second set, everything went much better,” the 23-year-old smiled.

The second set was a breeze as Khachanov broke in the second and fourth games and was home with a set and match (6-1) in 30 minutes. “There are always nerves. I think there is pressure for everything. The point is how you deal with it and how you go through it. You can go out from the court winning or losing, but there are sometimes really small differences between winning and losing. It can be decided by a few points, a few important ones,” he said.

“That’s why it’s really important to stay there mentally, to have a mindset to fight till the end. That’s what I’m doing actually in all matches, in the practice, in every match on the tournament. That’s all I can do. The results will be up and down. You just try to win as many matches as possible. Basically, there are no secrets,” Khachanov added.

A semi-finalist here in 2014, Kohlschreiber was also relieved at going through to the second round where he may run into top seed and four-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic. “I think I missed too many opportunities in the first set. He won the big points, served quite well on the breakpoints. I was in quite a good position many times, but I missed quite easy shots,” he rued.

“I was not unhappy with my game, but this took away a little bit of my confidence. I played too safe. He stepped it up and played aggressive, especially in the last game (5-4). He was returning very well. He took the chances to play aggressive,” the German complimented his opponent Safwat from Egypt.


(Men’s Singles) Karen Khachanov bt Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (2), 6-1; Philipp Kohlschreiber bt Mohammad Safwat 4-6, 6-4, 6-0; Andrey Rublev bt Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-4.

(Men’s Doubles) John Peers/Michael Venus bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4; Henri Kontinen/Jan-Lennard Struff bt Mate Pavic/Bruno Soares 7-6, 7-6.