Rafael Nadal recovered from an early scare to advance past unseeded Phillip Kohlschreiber into the second round of the Dubai Championship.
Nadal blamed the fast surface for his early struggled
German Kohlschreiber, who served 12 aces in all, took the opening set 6-3 but number two seed Nadal dominated the second 6-1 and took the third 6-4.
Third seed Novak Djokovic had no such alarms against Croat Marin Cilic.
The Australian Open champion sealed a 6-4 6-3 victory on his third match point and now faces Fabrice Santoro.
Djokovic, who reached the quarter-finals of this event last year, said it was different coming into the tournament as a Grand Slam winner.
"I have a lot of expectations and pressure but I like coping with pressure," the 20-year-old Serbian said. "I'm coming back to my favourite surface - hardcourt - and I feel pretty good."
Of his next opponent, 35-year-old Frenchman Santoro, who won their previous meeting, he said: "He's like a wine, the older he gets, the better he gets."
Nadal said it was the combination of a fast surface and a difficult draw that made things hard for him.
"Sure, it was a tough match. You play the first round like you'd play a quarter-final," he said.
It was a timely victory for the left-hander, who crashed out in the second round of his last tournament appearance, in Rotterdam two weeks ago.
Eighth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic also advanced, beating Gael Monfils of France 6-3, 6-2.
And Andy Roddick took less than an hour to dispatch Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2 6-4, serving 18 aces and conceding just 11 points on serve.
"This far surpassed my expectations for the first round," he said.