TENNIS: Shaky start for Mikhail Youzhny in Dubai
Mikhail Youzhny may be making his 12th consecutive appearance at the Aviation Club, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get nervous, writes Marvin France...
Opening his campaign against Slovakia’s Blaz Kavcic, the rowdy Russian almost became the tournament’s first major casualty as he was blown off the court in the first set, stormed back in the second before surviving a tense decider to prevail,
1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Youzhny was all over the place early on as a series of unforced errors allowed the 78th-ranked Slovakian to get the jump on the two-time finalist. And the eighth-seed admitted a bad case of the first-round jitters almost got the better of him.
“The match was a little bit nervous for me after the first set because it’s tough conditions to play,” said Youzhny, who next meets German qualifier Daniel Brands. “It was too many mistakes, and it was tough, tough match for me.” The result may well have been different were it not for two double faults from Kavcic early in the second set - the lapses in concentration all Youzhny needed to seize momentum and square the ledger.
The pair exchanged breaks at the start of the third but the 30-year-old’s experience eventually told as he broke again before serving out the contest in one hour 29 minutes.
“He helped me a little bit actually in the beginning of the second set,” Youzhny admitted. “First game he made two double faults, one mistake. After the break was a little bit easy. You have even better motivation to come back to the court.
“So that’s why I tried to continue to play, just try to put more ball into the court and don’t have too many mistakes.” Meanwhile, seventh-seed Andreas Seppi celebrated a double-breakthrough as he snapped his losing streak against Paul-Henri Mathieu to register a first-ever win at the tournament.
In five previous visits to the emirate Seppi had never made it past the first round, while he had also come up empty handed in three matches against the Frenchman. However, he dealt a forehand smash to both hoodoos with an impressive display on Centre Court, advancing 6-3, 7-5 in one hour 26 minutes.
“I was saying to myself I have to come back until I win my first match, and, yeah, it happened today,” the world No.20 said. “I felt pretty comfortable. So maybe I can play a little bit better and do better in next match.” The Italian will be hoping to double his Dubai win tally in the second round when he meets Lukas Rosol, who beat another Italian, Matteo Viola, 6-3, 7-5.