Dubai: Sixth seed Marin Cilic thrived in sweltering conditions to power past Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4 in the first round of the Dubai tennis championships on Tuesday.
"The first set wasn`t that great. I didn`t have a big percentage of first serves, but also he didn`t push me and I won my service games pretty easily," the tall Croatian told reporters. "I can still improve."
Cilic, who has won two ATP events this year, will play qualifier Stefan Koubek in Wednesday`s second round and the world number nine will not take his opponent lightly after the Austrian beat twice Dubai runner-up Feliciano Lopez on Monday.
"He won`t be easy, he can be dangerous and I have to focus to serve good and try to play as aggressive as I can," said Cilic, who was unfazed by the heat.
"There were perfect conditions -- I like to play in the sun," said the 21-year-old, who dropped only five points on his serve in the first set.
The second set was tougher going and Clement, 32, saved two break points at 2-2 but then hit a double fault to gift the game to the 2010 Australian Open semi-finalist.
Cilic won the next game with a 201-kph ace to lead 4-2 and then put Clement`s serve under pressure but the Frenchman saved another break point to pull back to 4-3.
Cilic eventually served out the match, saving five break points in the final game and clinching victory with an ace, his 13th of the contest.
Indian qualifier Somdev Devvarman beat Switzerland`s Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 7-5 to set up a meeting with Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the next round.