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Ljubicic survives Lopez storm

January 04, 2006 01:07 IST

Ivan Ljubicic survived an off-colour day to advance into the second round of the Chennai Open at the SDAT stadium on Tuesday night.

The world number nine beat Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match that lasted over two hours.

Defending champion Carlos Moya kept his chances for a hat-trick of titles at Chennai alive as overcame Dick Norman of Belgium 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in another first round match.

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Ljubicic, fresh from Croatia's Davis Cup triumph, took his time to settle down as Garcia-Lopez pounded away from the baseline. The Spaniard had his chances to win the first set, when he was up 4-1 in the tie-break but had a string of unforced errors and conceded the set at 8-6 with a double fault.

"It is always tough at the start of the tournament but I'm sure I'll do well as it progresses," said Ljubicic. "I was playing after three weeks and didn't feel fast enough on the court. Also it was difficult to play in the floodlights because I am not used to it and didn't practice under lights. But it was a good start."

Garcia-Lopez hung on by the thread in the second set, pulling in some terrific ground strokes but his errors at the net hurt him the most. Though both the players preferred playing at the baseline, the Spaniard failed to convert any opportunity to put away the ball after setting up the volley.

Ljubicic, after trading two breaks with Garcia-Lopez, moved ahead on winning the eleventh game to lead 6-5. He then served out a love game to complete the victory.

"The crowd was really nice; they got into the game completely. I know there were a very few of them remaining but they were loud," said the world number nine, making his maiden appearance in the tournament.

Moya, making a comeback after a long injury lay-off, made a successful start to his title defence earlier in the day.

"I felt pretty good today. The shoulder was also feeling a lot better," said the former world number one. "I have to be careful about it (the shoulder) because I'm not 20 anymore; but it's feeling a lot better than it was six months ago. If it holds up this way I may not have to undergo surgery, which is a pretty bad option at this stage of my career."

Moya added that he felt he played a good match and Norman was a good enough player to take a game off him.

Despite losing the second set 3-6, Moya dominated in the third, breaking Norman's serve in the fourth and the sixth games.

Day's results: P Srichaphan (Tha) bt R Delgado (par) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6; C Moya (ESP) bt D Norman (Bel) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1; R Stepanek (Cze) bt Ivan Navarro Pastor (ESP) 6-4, 7-6 (3); R Schuettler (Ger) bt F Vincente (ESP) 6-4, 6-3; R Bopanna (Ind) bt C Saulnier (Fra) 6-3, 6-3; M Berrer (ger) bt L Dlouhy (Cze) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; G Muller bt R Sabau (Rom) 6-2, 7-6 (5), I Ljubicic (Cro) bt G Garcia-Lopez 7-6 (6), 7-5.

Deepti Patwardhan in Chennai