DOHA, Qatar -- Fabrice Santoro, who is poised to start the new year by setting a remarkable record, made a winning start in the Qatar Open by beating Andreas Seppi 6-4 1-6 6-2 in Doha.
Santoro will competing in a record 62nd Grand Slam tournsament in Melbourne.
The 35-year-old Frenchman will break Andre Agassi's all-time record of appearing in 61 Grand Slam tournaments when he plays in the Australian Open in Melbourne in two weeks time
"I never thought about this in the past," said Santoro. "But people are now starting to talk to me about it, so I feel like it's almost there.
"It's a great record to beat because it's Andre Agassi, who is one of the best tennis players ever. I have a huge respect for him and this is the only record I'll ever take from him.
"It means I have been consistent at a high level for almost 20 years."
Santoro was facing an opponent 12 years his junior in the top 50 Italian Seppi, who found his best form in the second set.
Santoro took a calculated risk by allowing the set to slip away, saving his energy for a big effort in the decider.
"I took a rest and thought about a third set," he said. "Whenever you win you have to take a risk."
His second round opponent is likely to be top seed Nikolay Davydenko, who opens against German qualifier Benedikt Dorsch on Tuesday.
The defending champion, Ivan Ljubicic, made an impressive start with a satisfying 6-4 6-4 defeat of Stefan Koubek, the 2003 winner.
The fourth-seeded Croat was denied a place at the ATP Tour year-ending championships in Shanghai when he crashed to Koubek in the Madrid Masters in October.
"That was a painful loss," admitted Ljubicic, "So I was pleased to win this time. I didn't expect to win that easily though.
" But I like it here. This court suits me and it is always great to come back to where you have done well."
Andy Murray, the third-seeded Briton, starts on Tuesday against Olivier Rochus, of Belgium.
Tommy Robredo, the second seed from Spain, has a testing match against Agustin Calleri, one of the leading Argentines, in the first round. E-mail to a friend