Nikolic wins centre-court thriller for Azerbaijan

12 May 2017

Azerbaijan got off to a winning start in the men's tennis team event at the Islamic Solidarity Games on Friday after Filip Nikolic battled to a comeback victory over Pakistan's Muhammad Abid.

Twenty-three-year-old Nikolic looked sharp early on at the Baku Tennis Academy on the first day of tennis action, breaking Pakistan's Abid in the opening game.

The Serbian-born player's rhythm continued with an array of fierce forehands, and he went on to take the opening set to love in the first rubber of this Pool B clash.

Abid, aged 22, woke up in the second set, breaking Nikolic twice early on to take a 3-love lead before the Azeri left-hander clawed one break back in the eighth game.

Abid though was able to serve out the set, which he took 6-4, to head into the decider with the momentum.

The third set was nip and tuck throughout with both players making unforced errors, but Abid capitalised on a woeful Nikolic service game to move into a 5-4 lead.

However, Abid's own serve malfunctioned at a crucial time as he allowed the Azeri a route back with the match all-square at 5-5 in the decider.

Another poor Nikolic service game saw Abid break again, but the host player saved two match points - one after a marathon rally - to break back and force a tie break - the fourth break of serve in successive games.

The sparse crowd were treated to a pulsating tie break with Abid seemingly regaining his composure to sail into a 5-2 lead, but Nikolic roared back, reeling off five straight points to seal a dramatic 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory with Azerbaijan taking first blood in the best-of-three contest.

The Azeris also have Jordan and Qatar in Pool B as they target a maiden tennis medal at an Islamic Solidarity Games.

Pakistani veteran Aqeel Khan, who won men's team and men's doubles gold at the inaugural 2005 Games in Mecca, faces Azeri Rasul Gojayev in the second rubber on Friday afternoon.

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