Roger Federer kick-started the concluding phase of his season, winning his 39th-straight match over an American with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 defeat of Robby Ginepri on Tuesday at the Madrid Masters.
The Swiss tennis supremo turned in a calm, reassuring performance six weeks after last playing on the ATP when he won a fourth-straight US Open crown.
The last American to beat the Swiss was Andy Roddick more than four years ago in Montreal.
"It's tough to find the match rhythm, it's easier in training where you have nothing to lose," the Swiss said. "In a match it's different."
"At the start I didn't feel great. I had to adapt. Thank God I served my way out of trouble. I'm happy I won, it was not easy. All in all I'm pretty happy with my performance," he said.
Federer is in fine-tuning mode with this week and two more events remaining in his season before he and seven other rivals head to Shanghai for the season-ending Masters Cup starting on Nov. 11.
The race is on for the last four qualifying places in the field as most of the elite face off in Madrid.
Unseeded Andy Murray scored his second overwhelming victory in two days with a definitive 6-1, 6-3 crushing of Argentine Juan Chela, the 15th seed, in 66 minutes.
Murray's success could be a good omen for Britain's Davis Cup date next February in Buenos Aires with a one-player visiting side all but totally dependent upon the 20-year-old Scot.
Murray never gave Chela a chance in the rapid-fire victory punctuated by five breaks and 34 winners from the world No. 17 who missed three months with a wrist injury in the spring and summer.
Fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko withdrew on Tuesday, a day after booking his qualifying spot.
The Russian pulled out with a right elbow injury he sustained during a title run last week in Moscow.
Roddick is also out of action with a knee injury after withdrawing a fortnight ago from Bangkok with a foot problem.
Federer, Rafael Nadal, nursing a pair of tendinitis-affected knees, world No. 3 Novak Djokovic and Davydenko make up half of the Shanghai field with the remaining spots still up for grabs.
Against Ginepri, Federer required a first-set tiebreaker to establish his superiority over a man he has beaten on three previous occasions.
Once the opener had been salted away after 48 minutes, the top-seeded holder broke with a lob for 3-2 on his way to the win, his 55th of the season against six losses.
Ivo Karlovic compounded the Masters misery for mountain-climbing Russian Marat Safin as he bundled the 2004 champion out 6-3, 6-4.
The 57-minute rout was signed and sealed by the powerful Croatian with his 17th ace, slightly below his running average of 20-plus per match.
The defeat leaves former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam winner Safin sifting through the residue of his season.
Just back a few weeks ago from a Tibetian climbing expedition, the 27-year-old may wish to be heading back up the mountain for contemplation.
The No. 36 has lurched to a miserable record at the Masters level this year, losing four times in opening matches and never advancing past the second round in eight attempts.
"My aim for this season is just to finish the year, that's it," the disheartened Russian said. "I don't know where I will play next, as I need to ask for a wildcard. I just want to finish and start slowly preparing for 2008."