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Tue 24 Feb 2009 10:29 AM

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Ankle injuries blight first day of men's Dubai Open

Injury forces Stakhovsky to retire from match with Murray.

Andy Murray, who injured an ankle while winning the Rotterdam tournament the week before last, appeared to have injured it again while reaching the second round of the Dubai Open in an oddly ironic finish.

It was an ankle injury which brought the match to end just two points from a conventional finish - though it was not Murray who quit with the problem, but his opponent Sergiy Stakhovsky.

The Ukrainian had treatment on his left ankle at 5-4 in the first set, was late back on to court after more treatment before the penultimate game, and although he appeared still to be moving satisfactorily to the backhand side, walked to the net and shook hands at love-30 in the last game.

It meant that Murray's winning scoreline read 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 5-3, retired, and left the Scot with a slightly sceptical expression. "If he can't continue, he can't continue," he said, and then said he would have played through to the end himself.

Murray also admitted that he had only been practising for an hour and a half since his Dutch triumph, and that it was at around the hour and a half mark that he began to feel discomfort again.

But that did not stop him recovering coolly and impressively after allowing Stakhovsky to break back and sneak the first set.

The world number 79 also went a break up at the start of the second set, but Murray was moving the ball around with great control and repaired the damage at once.

He then broke again at once to go 3-1 up, maintained the advantage, and broke at once in the final set, consolidating with fuss right through to keep a stranglehold on the match.

Stakhovsky often attacked well, and won some great points, especially at the net, but Murray clearly enjoyed having his opponent come at him, and counter-attacked with enough mobility to turn the contest steadily around.

Both men will hope to recover well as they are likely to be on opposite sides of the net again in ten days time - at Glasgow in the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and the Ukraine.

Earlier Marin Cilic, the super-tall, impressively ambitious young Croatian who has just broken into the world's top 20, made a bold escape to reach the second round and maintain his ominously increasing momentum.

The 20-year-old from Zagreb who won his home town tournament the week before last and aims to make the eight who qualify for the year-end championships in London, was twice within a point of going a set and a break down before surviving 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 against Janko Tipsarevic, the tenacious top 50 Serbian.

Cilic responded to that danger moment in the first game of the second set with a solid serve, a capacity which consolidated his hold on the match the longer it went on.

"It was really difficult to get back into the match," said Cilic, who lost the first four games before he could really get going. "On the big points he was playing well, he was always getting his first serve in, and he made winners when it counted.

Ivo Karlovic, the number seven appeared to have got himself out of trouble twice before going down 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (9/7).

He saved two match points when 4-6 down in the final set-tie-breaker and recovered to hold one of his own at 7-6, before Chiudinelli, who may have benefited from being battle-hardened from two tight matches in the qualifying competition, sneaked the result against one of the tour's best servers. (AFP)

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