Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan triumphed in a clash of former champions as he outlasted American Mardy Fish 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-1 on Monday to advance to the second round of the Stockholm Open.
Unseeded Paradorn, who has been rescuing a miserable season oven the past month through semi-final showings in Beijing and at the home Thailand Open, lifted the Swedish trophy in 2002.
He lost the final to American James Blake last year.
Fish, ranked 56th, 15 places below his conqueror, won the Stockholm title in 2003, his last appearance here.
"It was a tough opening draw and I'm really glad to get the win today," Paradorn said. "He's also a former champion here so I knew going into the match that he must have something special here and feel good on the center court."
"The final set was key today, I played very smooth tennis, without many unforced errors. I think that was the deciding factor," he said.
Paradorn needed 55 minutes to secure the opening set, finally taking the early lead with a service winner past Fish.
The American rallied in the second, but was swept away by the Thai in the third.
Paradorn secured a match point with a down-the-line winner and finished with an untouchable backhand in a shade under two hours to bring his record for the year to 26 wins, 28 defeats.
It was Paradorn's first win in four attempts against Fish.
The pair played twice in 2001 (one a non-ATP event) while their last meeting was three years ago in Memphis.
"He's an awkward opponent for me, but I was more consistent today than in the other matches," Paradorn said.
"I have more confidence in my fitness. I'm ready to stay out on court for two or three hours," the Thai said.
The top Asian, 27, holder of five career titles, next faces Belgian sixth seed Olivier Rochus, who defeated another American when he put out Vince Spadea 6-3, 6-4.
Czech Tomas Berdych, the No. 3 seed, began his campaign with a win over Bjorn Phau 6-3, 6-2.
Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer stayed in the hunt for a possible place in next month's season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai with his 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Andreas Seppi of Italy.
Ferrer, who suffered a first round upset last week in Metz, needs to reach the quarter-finals here to start adding to his points total.
The Spaniard has won 13 of his last 18 matches, including his second career title at Stuttgart in July.
Swede Robin Soderling, seeded eighth, earned the first home win of the week as he crushed Belgian Christophe Rochus 6-1, 6-2, taking less than an hour to advance on four breaks and nine aces.
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is making his Stockholm debut this week with an opening match against Raemon Sluiter of the Netherlands.