27 February 2017 -- Dubai, UAE: Roger Federer began his quest for a record eighth title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-1 6-3 win over Benoit Paire. It is his 13th appearance in Dubai, and as well as winning seven titles he has twice finished as runner-up. The third seeded Australian Open champion is bidding to win an eighth title at an event for the first time in his career, after winning seven titles in Basel, Cincinnati, Halle and Wimbledon as well as Dubai.
Listen: Federer Post-Match Interview (mp3)
Federer waited just 12 minutes to make a breakthrough as he broke Paire at love to lead 3-1, but then had to hold off three break points in the next game. At 4-1 Paire had his right ankle taped, and Federer broke again to lead 5-1 and serve out the set. In the second set a break for 3-2 opened the way for a comfortable 54-minute victory. Federer was satisfied with how the match had gone.
"Yeah, good," said Federer, who was playing his first match since beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open. "There were some break points to be saved, and, you know, I think I returned very well for a first round. I was able to get my second serves in deep, was able to go into the offensive quickly. The serve in the beginning was a bit off maybe, but I think also playing at night here for the first time it's always just a different ball when you toss it up with the lights and everything, so that's going to get better as I progress in the tournament. Obviously couldn't be a better first round for me here in Dubai."
Watch: Federer & Murray Play Beach Tennis In Dubai
Federer was excited to be back after missing last year through injury and appreciated his warm reception, saying, "It's nice as you're warming up you hear the crowd already somewhat as they're getting pumped up by someone. You hear music and hear the roars. Then when you walk out, it's a nice feeling to have. You know, it's mutual, because I missed playing here last year. I have played here for so many years, seen the tournament grow. And especially after Australia, fans and myself know how special it is for me to be back on the court. It was a nice welcome. Very thankful always."
Fourth seed Gael Monfils, who won the biggest title of his career last year in Washington and then reached the semi-finals of the US Open, defeated Egyptian wild card Mohamed Safwat 6-4 6-3. Monfils broke at 5-4 on his ninth break point to take the opening set. He then needed five break points before breaking to lead 4-2 in the second set.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is now within two matches of achieving a remarkable 400 career singles victories after beating eighth seed Gilles Muller 6-4 7-6 (1), and Marcel Granollers lined up a possible second round clash with defending champion and number two seed Stan Wawrinka by breezing past Jiri Vesely 6-3 6-2. Sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut left Karen Khachanov without a win in six matches by winning 6-1 7-6 (4) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez could face top seed and world number one Andy Murray in the next round after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-3.
"The 25th staging of the ATP event at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is underway and after a thrilling women's tournament we can look forward to another wonderful week featuring the best of the ATP World Tour," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "Roger Federer is chasing history here this week and is in top form again after having to miss the entire second half of last season, and it is wonderful to welcome him back. We wish him every success."
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, "We have several of the very best players in the world competing in Dubai this week, including the reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champions. There are also several others who have achieved great success and who have claimed victories over the very best in the game. It should be a fascinating week."
Play continues until 4th March and includes Wimbledon, Olympic and ATP World Tour Finals champion and world number one Andy Murray, Australian Open champion and seven-time Dubai winner Roger Federer, defending Dubai champion and reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and the entertaining Gael Monfils.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets are still available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are also available online through www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.