Qatar ushers in new tennis season

Day one saw Croat Ivor Lubicic and Sweed Thomas Johansson progress to round two.


    Ivan Ljubicic started 2008 with a comfortable win[AFP]

    Victories for Ivan Lubicic and Thomas Johansson at The Qatar Open ATP tournament ushered in the new tennis season, with concerns of corruption still hanging over the sport.

    The first round in Doha on Monday saw Ljubicic, the reigning champion and tournament's fourth seed, beat Austrian Stefan Koubek 6-4, 6-4.

    Earlier in the day Thomas Johannsen, the former Australian open champion, annihilated Russian Igor Andreev 6-1, 6-0.

    Johannsen told Al Jazeera: "It felt very good. I felt very strong.

    "It's extremely tough as I haven't been playing for one and a half months but once you get out there it's OK."

    Prize money and ranking points

    The competition was one of three this week, competing against Chennai in India and Adelaide, Australia, for entrants.

    It comes two weeks ahead of the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the season.

    Ayman Azmy, the tournament director, said that the players had travelled to the Gulf State due to the large prize money on offer, for ranking points and to have a break from Europe's cold weather.

    Andy Murray, runner-up last year and this year's third seed, said was not putting too much pressure on himself to win so early on in the season.

    "It's nice to have a good first week but I don't think you have to put too much pressure on yourself. It's natural to be a bit rusty in the first week of the year.

    "The tennis season is ten and a half months long. So I'd like to start well but if it doesn't happen hopefully I'll get it together before Australia."

    Azmy also said that there were still concerns over corruption in tennis after questions concerning players throwing matches last season but that the organisers were doing everything they could.

    "This is a worldwide problem. We had a meeting with the ATP and they put certain requirements for safety and security on the site for us to fulfill, such as on the players lounge and locker rooms."

    Frenchman Fabrice Santoro and Germans Michael Berrer and Philipp Kohlschreiber, the sixth seed, also went through.

    Murry and the top seed Nikolay Davydenko play their first round matches on Tuesday. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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