Andy Murray comfortably beat Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 6-2 in his first match at the Barcelona Open on Tuesday to book his place in the last 16.
The second-seeded world No. 4, who reached the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo last week, took an hour and 18 minutes to see off Stakhovsky without dropping serve.
“It was a good test, a good start to the tournament,” Murray said. “I though I was hitting the ball well and I played better as the match went on.
“It is going to be very difficult to spring a surprise here though, because all the best Spanish players are here,” he said.
“Rafa Nadal is favorite, but Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro are also very tough to beat on clay,” he added.
The 24-year-old Briton, who has many links with Barcelona, having trained there as a teenager, will play either Santiago Giraldo of Colombia or Dutchman Robin Haase in the next round today.
Verdasco, the 2010 Barcelona champion, also reached the last 16 with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Belgian Steve Darcis and sixth seed Almagro beat Eduoard Roger-Vasselin of France 7-5, 7-6.
World No. 2 and top seed Nadal was due to start the defense of his title against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez yesterday.
STUTTGART CLAY COURT
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World No. 5 Sam Stosur cruised into the Stuttgart clay court tournament second round on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over China’s Shuai Peng to set up a clash with last year’s winner Julia Goerges.
German Goerges, who beat Australian Stosur in the last four en route to the Stuttgart title last year, was made to battle a lot harder by Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before edging past the world No. 23 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Fellow German Andrea Petkovic crowned her comeback on the tour after more than three months out with a back injury with a confidence-boosting 6-1, 6-4 victory against wild card Kristina Barrois to set up a second round clash with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
World No. 7 Marion Bartoli also moved into the second round with a trouble-free win over Czech Iveta Benesova.
Former Wimbledon finalist Bartoli pinned the Czech back with a barrage of groundstrokes and got the first break to lead 3-2 in the first before breaking again to clinch the set with a powerful two-handed backhand down the line.
Qualifier Benesova broke straight back in the first game of the second set, but Bartoli upped her game again to ease home.
FEZ GRAND PRIX
Meanwhile, former US and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova moved into the second round of the Grand Prix SAR by beating Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-1, 7-5 on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Russian, whose last tour singles title came in 2010, broke Daniilidou seven times.
Third-seeded Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic beat Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-4, 6-2, and fifth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania advanced when Fatima Zahrae El Allami of Morocco retired after losing the first set 6-1.
Qualifiers Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and Garbine Muguruza Blanco of Spain also won their first-round matches.