(Reuters) - Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic began his bid for a third successive Dubai title with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win over France’s Michael Llodra on Tuesday.
Back on court for the first time since he thrashed Andy Murray in Melbourne three weeks ago, the second seeded Serbian was barely troubled by an opponent who beat him on their previous meeting at the Paris Masters in November.
Choosing to serve and volley at every opportunity, Llodra provided an easy target for Djokovic to pass, and he also missed a number of balls at the net.
After holding a break point in the opening game Djokovic broke to lead 3-2 when Llodra made a backhand error, and he closed out the set with a second break at 5-3.
Djokovic then broke for 3-1 in the second set with a superbly struck winner threaded down the line, and after recovering from 0-40 to hold for a 5-2 lead he claimed victory with a second serve ace. “I didn’t know how I’m going to start the tournament after three weeks of not playing an official match, so I have to say I’m happy with the performance today,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I think he didn’t serve as well and as fast as our last match in Paris a couple of months back. But still, I was managing to return a lot of balls back and making him play an extra shot.”
Djokovic has chosen to play doubles at several events in the next few weeks, partnering his older brother Marko in Dubai, Viktor Troicki at Indian Wells and Murray in Miami.
The purpose is to add another dimension to his game, coming to the net more often.
“One of the reasons playing doubles is to work on the serve and volley game and return,” Djokovic said. “It’s good. It helps. Hopefully I can have fun with it as well. I like playing doubles around.
“It’s not easy after playing 23 years from the baseline you want to step into the court and go to the net a little bit. But, you know, I’m working on that variety in my game, using the serves well, and I did well today.”
Seventh seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis lasted only 23 minutes against Kazak Andrey Golubev, losing the first four games before retiring with illness, and Serbian sixth seed Troicki was beaten 6-1 7-6 by Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
Nikolay Davydenko has been struggling of late, but the Russian took just 57 minutes to overwhelm Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-2 6-0.