James Blake of the US was beaten 7-5, 6-3 by Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi in the first round of the Rome Masters, where play was curtailed by rain and wind on Monday.
The 14th seed fought back to 5-5 after losing the first five games of the match, but he failed to force a tiebreak by dropping serve in the final game of the first set.
Blake briefly perked up again, but then appeared to lose heart after relinquishing a 2-0 lead in the second set and 26-year-old Crivoi sealed the match with a sweet drop volley at the net.
Last year’s runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka overcame a few concentration lapses to move into the second round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Igor Kunitsyn.
The 10th-seeded Swiss broke the Russian in the eighth game and then produced some big serves to hold the first set after conceding three break points with wild shots and a double fault.
Wawrinka eased to victory despite losing serve in the fourth game of the second set.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, who has a bye to the second round along with the other top seeds, will start his title defense against Albert Montanes. The Spaniard beat Italian wildcard Potito Starace 7-6, 6-4.
World No. 2 Roger Federer, yet to win a title this year, will begin his campaign against Croat Ivo Karlovic.
British fourth seed Andy Murray will face Juan Monaco after the Argentine qualifier swept aside German Nicolas Kiefer 6-2, 6-3.
Former world No. 1 Marat Safin’s match against Spanish 13th seed Tommy Robredo was one of the encounters pushed into yesterday’s schedule by the weather.
■STUTTGART GRAND PRIX
REUTERS, STUTTGART, GERMANY
World No. 8 Victoria Azarenka eased past Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-4 with a dazzling display of power and accuracy to move into the second round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Monday.
The 19-year-old Belarussian, who stormed into the top 10 with her first tier I tournament win in Miami earlier this month, broke her opponent in the first game.
With a massive backhand, Azarenka chased the 24th-ranked Spaniard across the indoor clay court, whipping winners at will and clinching the first set 6-1.
Suarez Navarro broke her opponent in the first game of the second set and came back to level 4-4 but Azarenka, accompanying each effort with a high-pitched shriek, sealed her win with her first match point when the Spaniard fired a forehand long.
World No. 1 Dinara Safina was to open her campaign yesterday against Italian Sara Errani.
Russian Olympic champion Elena Dementieva, the world No. 3, takes on wildcard entrant German Anna-Lena Groenefeld.