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A rather tough second round for Roger

01.03.2006 | Tennis

Mohammed Al Ghareeb - ranked 488 - gave Roger all he could handle before ultimately falling to our hero, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, in the second round in Dubai.

 

The three-time defending champion here, Roger won his 54th consecutive hardcourt match, very few of which have presented such a challenge.However, what made Wednesday's battle so spectacular was the complete obscurity of his opponent. A wild card entry from Kuwait, the 25-year-old Al Ghareeb entered with a career 11-4 mark on tour.  By contrast, Roger has more wins than that this year alone. In fact, Roger owns nearly three times as many tournament titles (35) as Al Ghareeb has career wins on his resume.

 

But none of those discrepancies mattered Wednesday, as Al Ghareeb jumped out to a stunning 4-2 lead in the first set. Roger rallied to take a 6-5 lead, but Al Ghareeb held serve at love to force a tiebreak. Trailing 6-2 in the tiebreak, Al Ghareeb won three straight points to put the pressure on Roger, who ultimately won the ensuing point to take the set.

 

Al Ghareeb continued to make a statement in the second set, taking a 3-2 lead on the seven-time Grand Slam winner.  However, Roger responded to win the next three games and led, 40-15, before Al Ghareeb won four straight points - including a pair of potential match points for Roger - to draw within 5-4.

 

In the 10th game, Al Ghareeb fought off yet another match point before finally succumbing to Roger, who still has not lost a hardcourt match since falling to eventual champion Marat Safin in the semifinals of the 2005 Australian Open. He will play the winner of the Czech encounter between Tomas Berdych (8) and Robin Vik.

 
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