Rafael Nadal came back from one set down to beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in Dubai. Other front runners Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick reached the second round with less hassle.
Rafael Nadal had to dig himself out of trouble here Tuesday to avoid going the way of Roger Federer, who was sensationally beaten in the first round of the Dubai Open.
Nadal was twice within a point of going a break of serve down in the second set, having lost the first, before clawing his way back to a three-set win over the improving Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The world number two from Spain was often not at his best during his 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 success, but, unlike Federer against Andy Murray on Monday, he found a way to win.
Kohlschreiber, the world number 27 from Germany, did most things well, and having edged his way up the rankings slowly is an underestimated player.
But Nadal did not make that mistake.
"I was playing a big player. He's a top 30 player and one of the toughest pros on the tour, for sure," he said.
"It was a difficult match. I didn't play my best but it's not easy playing here, and I didn't come here with a great deal of confidence," added Nadal, referring to his surprise loss to Andrea Seppi of Italy in Rotterdam the week before last.
"This tournament gives you the toughest draw on the tour. But the good thing was I was one hundred percent mentally.
"Maybe I didn't play my best but I was focussed all the time and I was very happy with that."
Nadal's difficulties increased despite having made an early break, for he lost five games in a row and was unable to pull that deficit back.
The first set's final game included two dramatic Hawkeye challenges in succession, with Kohlschreiber reaching set point after the umpire over-ruled a line judge's out decision, and Hawkeye showed the umpire wrong.
Nadal had an important escape early in the second set when he saved a break point with an ace, and after that Nadal began to make steady progress, using his familiar assets, his heavy looped forehand and his mobility, to apply pressure.
He broke for 3-0 and 4-1 and broke again to extend his advantage to a 6-1 scoreline which was misleading, for he rarely hit the heights.
Despite this Nadal continued working hard as the match went into the decider, overcoming the disappointment of getting a break for 3-2 and then losing it, and making the decisive break of serve in the seventh game when Kohlschreiber's level dropped.
Nadal consolidated the break this time, and then closed the match out to love, earning a second round with Mikhail Ledovskikh, a Russian qualifier.
The other main front runners for the title, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick, came through with less hassle.
Djokovic, the Australian Open champion from Serbia, overcame Marin Cilic, the world number 45 from Croatia, 6-4, 6-3, and reckoned he had been more "stable and patient" on the points which mattered than his opponent.
He now plays Fabrice Santoro, the 35-year-old former champion from France, who upset Mikhail Youzhny, the world number 12 from Russia, on Monday in what is almost certainly his last tournament here.
Djokovic also proffered the surprising opinion that, based on what he had seen this year, he had expected Murray to beat Federer.
Then Andy Roddick, the sixth seeded former US Open champion who is making his first appearance in this Gulf state, started with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former world number one from Spain.
Roddick next plays Paul-Henri Mathieu, one of three Frenchmen in the last 16.
Date created : 2008-03-04