Thiem cruises through in Qatar, Verdasco battles back
With Novak Djokovic absent, Dominic Thiem took centre stage at the Qatar Open, the top seed easing through the first round.
Top seed Dominic Thiem wasted no time in stamping his authority over the Qatar Open with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory over Evgeny Donskoy.
Thiem is the standout player in the season-opening tournament in Doha after two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic withdrew on Saturday with his problematic elbow injury.
Fellow former winners Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal have opted to base themselves in Brisbane ahead of the Australian Open, so all eyes are on Thiem this week.
After saving one set point and missing another, Thiem eventually came through a tight opening set against Donskoy in a tie-break.
Donskoy's competitiveness fell away in the second set, though, as Thiem upped the tempo and broke twice to seal his progression and a meeting with either Aljaz Bedene or Malek Jaziri.
The only other seed in action – Fernando Verdasco – also booked his place in the second round, the Spaniard beating Dudi Sela 4-6 6-4 6-0.
Seventh seed Verdasco started sluggishly and was wasteful in the opening set, Sela winning four successive games to move in front.There were only three holds of serve in the second set, two for Verdasco, and he strolled through the decider to set up a clash with Andrey Rublev – the Russian having moved through after Cedrik-Marcel Stebe retired from their contest.