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Nadal beats Baghdatis in thriller

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Rafael Nadal claimed a thrilling 3-6 6-2 6-3 victory over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis to reach the second round of the Dubai Open.

In a match worthy of the final, both players produced some spectacular tennis as Baghdatis threatened to take advantage of the second-seeded Spaniard's recent lack of matches.

While defending champion Nadal has not played since the Australian Open, Baghdatis has won a title in Zagreb and reached the Marseille final.

Baghdatis broke in the opening game and looked sharp and confident against a more subdued Nadal.

The Spaniard fought off three break points when down 4-2 but Baghdatis broke again for the set when Nadal made a forehand error.

Nadal was more aggressive in the second set, pounding his forehand and frequently going to the net.

He was a little lucky to break for 2-1 when the ball clipped the net cord and fell in his favour, but there was no doubt about his second break to lead 5-2 when Baghdatis netted a forehand.

Baghdatis began to look discouraged after double-faulting to lose his serve at 1-1 in the third. He faced another break point at 3-1, and his eighth double-fault gave Nadal his first match point at 5-3.

Nadal netted a backhand but closed out the match on his second match point when Baghdatis netted a forehand volley.

"I am very happy," Nadal, who produced 11 winners at the net, told reporters. "I played very good tennis.

"The first set is difficult always because (I was) without rhythm, without competition. Marcos was playing with confidence because he's been playing well the last weeks.

"But after the first set I felt better and better. In the final set I played one of my best matches this year for sure."

Baghdatis admitted he lacked the self-belief needed to win.

"I'm disappointed I lost today because the first set I was playing really good. I felt like he couldn't find the solution because I was changing the rhythm all the time," Baghdatis said.

"I got broken at 1-1 (second set) a bit stupidly and I put him in the match, and when you put guys like Rafa in the match and give them a chance to play then it's tough to come back.

"But I think the problem is that I still don't believe I can beat these guys, Rafa and Roger (Federer). It's not a matter of tennis, it's a matter of I see them too far from me."

Nikolay Davydenko survived a huge scare against 195th-ranked Moroccan wildcard Younes El Aynaoui before he scraped into the second round with a 6-7 7-5 7-5 victory.

The third-seeded Russian took two hours 50 minutes to win, claiming victory on his fifth match point after El Aynaoui had recovered a break of serve in both the second and third sets.

Meanwhile, eighth seed David Ferrer of Spain was beaten 7-6 6-1 by Sweden's Robin Soderling, his challenge fading after losing a marathon 15-13 tiebreak.

Frenchman Gilles Simon, who recently won his first career title in Marseille, avenged his defeat by Philipp Kohlschreiber last week in Rotterdam by beating the German 6-4 6-4, while German qualifier Rainer Schuettler overcame Italian Andreas Seppi 6-0 7-6.


Nadal recovered from a rusty first set to fight back and defeat Baghdatis.

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