Former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro saved three match points on his way to beating Marcos Baghdatis 4-6 6-4 7-6 in the Dubai tennis championships first round on Tuesday.
Fourth seed Del Potro recovered from 4-1 down in the deciding set, the Argentine’s superior ground strokes ultimately wearing down his Cypriot opponent as dusk fell.
“Marcos also deserved to win but the luck was behind me and I played better in the big moments,” Del Potro said in a courtside interview. “In the tiebreak I was solid.”
The opening two sets were decided by a service break as both players opted for a serve and volley approach, Del Potro losing the first with a double-fault.
In the deciding set, Del Potro misjudged a Baghdatis lob that drifted in after the 24-year-old pulled his racket away at the last moment to allow the Cypriot to break.
The 2006 Australian Open finalist then held for a 4-1 lead, but Del Potro was not finished, storming back to level at 4-4 with Baghdatis unable to live with the precision and venom of the world number seven’s ground strokes.
Del Potro had been guilty of making too many unforced errors but was nerveless in saving successive match points, then a third, to hold for 5-5 as some brutal serving helped him survive.
In the tiebreak, Baghdatis wilted by clubbing shots wide and long.
Earlier, Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko routed world number nine Janko Tipsarevic 6-0 7-5 in sweltering conditions.
The first two games took 31 minutes to complete, with Tipsarevic going through three rackets in the opening three games.
The Serb, wearing his trademark dark glasses, came out fighting in the second set and broke twice for a 4-1 lead only for 31-year-old Davydenko to win six of the last seven games.
“Maybe he lost concentration,” Davydenko, the world number 46, told reporters. “I was also waiting for him to make some mistakes because it’s really difficult to do winners here.”
Third seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic strolled past wild card Rajeev Ram 6-1 6-3.
Roger Federer won through on Monday while Novak Djokovic was still playing in his first round.