DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Rafael Nadal’s first tournament match since surgery last November ended in a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat to German qualifier Michael Berrer in the first round of the Qatar Open on Tuesday.
Nadal, the defending champion, had three break points on Berrer’s seve in the final game of the match, but couldn’t convert them to level for 5-5.
The second-seeded Spaniard, who was broken in the first game of the third set, was clearly paying the price for a lack of matches in the second half of 2014. He was sidelined for three months with a right wrist injury after Wimbledon and then had an appendectomy in early November.
It was 34-year-old Berrer’s first victory over a player ranked in the top-five. The 127th-ranked Berrer had already announced that this is his final season on the tour.
In a sharp contrast to Nadal’s exit, top-ranked Novak Djokovic started his season with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Serbian countryman Dusan Lajovic.
Djokovic’s first-round victory took 59 minutes. He put 72 percent of his first serves in play, and was successful on five of six break-point opportunities.
He is making his first appearance at the Doha tournament. Historically, he hasn’t played a sanctioned tournament in the first week of the year.
Djokovic withdrew from the Abu Dhabi exhibition final last week with the flu, but showed no lingering signs of illness against Lajovic.
Third-seeded Tomas Berdych also advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
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