Defending champion Philipp Kohlschreiber overcame a shoulder injury to thrash in-form Dominik Hrbaty in a first-round singles match at the Heineken Open yesterday.
Playing after receiving painkilling injections, the German’s serve and ground strokes proved too much for Hrbaty and he wrapped up the match 6-1, 6-2 in just 52 minutes.
“I didn’t play the last two days but the shoulder is getting better,” Kohlschreiber said.
“I thought it was going to be tough but I had to take it step by step. I made a great start and I’m looking forward to my next match,” he added ahead of a second round meeting with former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Hrbaty, on the comeback trail after injury last year, arrived in Auckland fresh from wins over Marat Safin and James Blake as he helped Slovakia win the Hopman Cup in Perth.
But he said he was feeling the effects of a tough week in Australia, where he was up at 4am for four consecutive days.
Latvian star Ernests Gulbis set himself up for a second-round clash with tournament top seed Juan Martin Del Potro after a three-set victory over Spain’s Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-7 (5/7) 6-1.
He was in line to wrap the match up in two sets after a break early in the second set but he dropped serve late in the set and then lost the tiebreaker.
“I lost a little bit of concentration in the second set. I felt good being a break up and felt like I was going to finish quickly,” he said.
Gulbis, a quarter-finalist in the French Open last year, has yet to play the world No 9 Del Potro but is hopeful of beating the Argentinian who had a first-round bye.
“He is a good player but it will be his first match of the year and that will be tough for him,” he said.
Tournament qualifier John Isner of the US became the first giant-killer of the tournament when he beat seventh seed Albert Montanes of Spain 7-6 7-5.
In another first-round match, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun beat Steve Darcis of Belgium 7-6, 6-2.
Next up for Lu is Spanish fourth seed Nicolas Almagro who had a bye into the second round.
Almagro is ranked 18 in the world by the ATP, but was ranked as high as 11 as recently as last July.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER