Reigning world champion Marc Marquez had more reason to smile after winning the MotoGP opener in Qatar.

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Story highlights

Reigning world champion Marc Marquez wins the opening MotoGP race of season

Marquez holds off nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi under the lights in Qatar

Former world champion Jorge Lorenzo took the lead in the first lap before crashing

Marquez's teammate Dani Pedrosa moves up to take third place

CNN  — 

It turned out to be a duel between the young, reigning world champion and a motorcycling racing legend. The former won.

Marc Marquez held off Valentino Rossi to claim the opening MotoGP race of the season in Qatar on Sunday, picking up where he left off last year. That despite breaking his leg last month while dirt biking.

Marquez took control in his Repsol Honda with nine of the 22 laps remaining but nine-time world champion Rossi caught him with two laps to go in his Yamaha.

The lead changed hands a few times until Marquez led entering the final lap – and Rossi couldn’t get close enough to pass him again. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa finished a distant third.

“I enjoyed a lot that race, especially after the injury,” Marquez told BT Sport. “I didn’t expect that race, honestly. But yesterday I had a good feeling and today the last lap with Valentino, I didn’t think about the leg and the injury.

“The last lap I pushed my 100% but not before we overtook each other two or three times. It was so nice, no?”

The 21-year-old, who lost his pole advantage seconds after the start, saved his fastest lap time for the end.

But Rossi wasn’t too disappointed, especially since he began well behind on the grid.

“I was a little bit not precise in my mind because I said, ‘What do I do? Do I attack?’” Rossi told BT Sport. “But starting from 10th, second is a great result.

“Marc was strong. I tried, tried and tried but at the end I was unfortunately a little bit too far (away).

“I enjoyed the race very much.”

Rossi’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, didn’t.

The two-time MotoGP world champion – and last year’s winner in Qatar – crashed in the first lap after a blistering start that saw him move to the front.

He was unhurt.

“Luckily I feel good,” he told BT Sport. “I lost the front. I made a junior mistake.”

The second race of the season takes place April 13 in Austin.

Read: Preview of the 2014 season