World number one Peter Nicol made a sluggish start to his Cathay Pacific Squash Open campaign last night, battling back from a game down to defeat unheralded Egyptian Amr Shabana in their hard-fought, first-round tussle. Nicol, 25, who had not faced Shabana before yesterday's match, was pushed all the way by his talented left-handed opponent before finally prevailing 14-15, 15-12, 15-12, 15-7. After losing the opening game, Nicol battled back in the second with some dogged play to grind Shabana down. But the 21-year-old North African came back well in the third and had Nicol in trouble at 11-9. A harsh penalty stroke saw Nicol pull the score back to 11-10 and Shabana appeared to crumble as the Scot took five of the next six points to take the all-important third game. Nicol then romped home in the fourth game to seal the match. Nicol, who like most of the field at this week's Open is playing his first major tournament since the British Open in April, later said he was relieved to have got his first match out of the way. 'He gave me a good run around but I'm not too worried because normally I'm quite a slow starter. I often find the first match of a tournament is tough,' he said. Nicol said he had practised trying to play more aggressively during the summer break but, after struggling to adjust to playing conditions on the Hong Kong Squash Centre's centre court, opted for safety-first. 'I found it really difficult to see the ball out there. I just couldn't focus on my shots. I've been practising really going for my shots but tonight I just didn't feel at all comfortable so I just decided to play safe,' Nicol said. Left-hander Nicol said he had also been unsettled by the left-handed playing style of his opponent. 'That also made it hard. I don't like playing left-handers and I had problems tonight. He has got a lot of talent and is obviously a good prospect,' he added. Standing in the way of Nicol's path to a first-ever Hong Kong title is Pakistan's Jansher Khan, whom the young Scot deposed as world number one in February. Khan is playing in his first tournament since operations on both knees following his defeat to Nicol in the final of the British Open in April. The legendary second seed gets his Hong Kong campaign under way today when he faces Hong Kong's Faheem Khan in the first round. In other matches yesterday, controversial Australian Anthony Hill - the world number nine - was sent tumbling out by compatriot and qualifier Craig Rowland. Hill, who has developed a reputation as the bad-boy of international squash, was beaten 6-15, 15-9, 15-12, 15-3 by Rowland, the world number 32. True to form, Hill's exit was not without a touch of controversy and the 29-year-old from Melbourne complained bitterly about a string of decisions that went against him during the physical, 49-minute scrap. Rowland will now play compatriot and number four seed Rodney Eyles in the second round. Like Nicol, Eyles was also forced to battle back from a set down in a tricky match against English qualifier Nicholas Taylor, the world number 32. Eyles, 31, made light of losing the first game 15-17 before winning the next three 15-11, 15-11, 15-7 to prevail in 50 minutes.