DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Novak Djokovic opened the defense of his Dubai Championships title with a straight sets victory over Denis Istomin, while second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro had to retire from his first-round match on Tuesday.
Top-seeded Djokovic, who is making only his second appearance this year after reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over 54th-ranked Istomin of Uzbekistan.
"It wasn't as easy as the scoreline indicates," said Djokovic, who has won in Dubai on four occasions. "I needed to work for my games.
"Having not played for more than four, five weeks, an official match, obviously it takes its toll on the court."
Djokovic saved all four break points he faced on serve and broke Istomin three times — in the third and ninth games of the first set and in the second game of the second set.
Del Potro was not so fortunate, being forced to retire against Somdev Devvarman of India after losing the first-set tiebreaker 7-6 (3).
Since winning the Sydney title last month, Del Potro has been struggling with a left wrist injury that has conjured up memories of similar pain he experienced in his right wrist four years ago.
In 2010, the year after he won the U.S. Open, he played only three tournaments before and after surgery on his right wrist.
Del Potro was fighting back tears in Dubai when he came to talk to the media after his retirement.
"I don't feel really well," he said. "My wrist is hurting a lot and everybody knows what happened to me four years ago with my other wrist.