Third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat Andreas Seppi of Italy for the fifth time in a row 6-3, 6-3 on Monday to open his account at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Berdych, coming off a semi-final run at the Australian Open and Davis Cup win over the Netherlands, did not face a break point.
A semi-finalist two years ago at the Dutch city, he will play the winner of an all-French faceoff between Gilles Simon and Nicolas Mahut.
Fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hit 10 aces in beating Florian Mayer of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, while Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Michael Berrer were also winners, along with Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Defending champion Juan Martin del Potro and Wimbledon champ Andy Murray — a last-minute wild-card addition as second seed — will appear today.
The Argentine and British players are both using this week’s ATP event to build confidence during injury comebacks.
On Monday, top seed Del Potro was subjecting his delicate left wrist to steadily building pressure as the Argentine prepares for a huge test in the first round when he plays weekend Montpellier champion Gael Monfils of France.
The sixth-ranked Murray said that he took a late wild-card entry to try and carry on his Davis Cup confidence after leading Britain past the US.
“When you’re not playing for a long time, you need to get used to competing again, I’m enjoying playing events,” said the 2009 champion in Rotterdam.
“I quite fancied playing a tournament before Acapulco [later this month]. My ranking has dropped a bit and I don’t have many points to defend. I’m keen to improve my ranking and get back on the match court again,” he added.
Murray, who admitted he felt battered and bruised after losing an Australian Open quarter-final to Roger Federer, said that he is slowly working toward full fitness after getting back surgery in September last year.
“It’s been good so far, It’s important for me to challenge my body a bit and see how good it is. I played five-set matches in Australia and now at Davis Cup,” the Brit said.
“In those events you have a day off between matches, Here, if I can win a match or two, I’ll be playing every day. That will indicate how well I’m recovering from matches,” Murray added.
Del Potro has been managing wrist pain since losing early at the Australian Open and consulted with his Minnesota doctors to get definitive word of his condition. So far, it is all clear for the Argentine.
“Doctors are hopeful that my wrist will recover very fast. It is improving slowly, but at least it is improving,” he said. “I’m trying to find a different treatment to fix the injury, to ensure that I can play the whole season.”
The 25-year-old said he knows he is on shaky ground physically, but that he is relieved that the doctors told him his wrist can heal and that he cannot damage it more by playing.
For now, ranking dreams have to be tempered with reality.
“I’d like to remain in the top five and hopefully reach the top three. It will be difficult to pass [No. 1 one] Rafa[el Nadal], [Novak] Djokovic and [Stanislas] Wawrinka, particularly after his recent Australian Open win, but I’m not the only one in the top 10 who has a lot of points to defend,” Del Potro said.