Marin Cilic followed up his weekend indoor title by beating Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday, while former champion Mikhail Youzhny was bundled out at the Rotterdam World Tennis tournament.
The unseeded Cilic came to the Dutch port city fresh from a fourth title at home in Zagreb, where he beat Tommy Haas. The former world No. 9 is scheduled to play fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his next match.
Youzhny, seeded seventh, went down double breaks in both sets as the 2007 winner fell to Dutchman Igor Sijsling 6-2, 6-2.
Youzhny’s loss streak this year is now entering a second month after he won his only match of the season a month ago in the first round of the Australian Open.
Latvian Ernests Gulbis earned a second-round spot as he beat Uzbek Denis Istomin 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) in 90 minutes.
French player Gilles Simon withdrew and was replaced in the draw by Daniel Brands. Simon could not recover from the back pain he felt last week in Montpellier and is to return home for treatment.
Cilic, who served a three-month ban for a technical anti-doping infraction last season after he inadvertently ingested a banned substance through the use of over-the-counter glucose tablets, currently stands 37th, but is making steady progress in his return.
“At the start of the season, I though it might go quicker,” said Cilic, now coached by former Croatian star Goran Ivanisevic. “But my game has been a bit up and down, oscillating.”
“I’ve still not played a lot of matches,” said the player, who returned to the ATP in November at Paris Bercy. “I’m still not used to some match situations, some balls come differently than in training, but I’m getting back in the groove now and playing much better ... that [his absence] is all behind me now.”
Cilic, with 10 ATP titles, never lost control against the 50th-ranked Czech Rosol, with the winner sending down a modest eight aces, but breaking four times in the one-hour victory.
“Overall, I played solidly, I didn’t have too many mistakes. In the first couple of games, I had to get used to conditions. I was finally feeling the ball. I mixed it up well and made him play,” he said. “My serve was also working pretty well, it was a solid match.”
Meanwhile, Czech third seed Tomas Berdych has admitted to gaining confidence about his Grand Slam title chances after watching Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka win the Australian Open.
No. 7 Berdych was himself a semi-final victim of Wawrinka last month in Melbourne, with the Swiss winning the title over Rafael Nadal.
“Stan showed us that it is possible to win a Grand Slam,” said Berdych, who is to meet either Nicolas Mahut or Gilles Simon, both of France, in the second round. “Grand Slams are difficult to win, but Stan showed it’s possible to beat the top guys. If you work hard, then everything can click together and you can make it in the end. It isn’t only the right of two or three guys [Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the so-called Big Four].”
“Stan’s win showed that the top 10 is also extremely tough. I just need to work harder, stay patient and hopefully the results will come,” the 2010 Wimbledon finalist added.
AFP, MEMPHIS, Tennessee
Cypriot wildcard Marcos Baghdatis, Croatian Ivo Karlovic and Germany’s Benjamin Becker eased to straight-sets victories on Tuesday to book second-round matches with seeded players at the US$647,000 ATP US Indoor Championship in Memphis, Tennessee.
Becker saved all three break points that he faced in beating Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-2 and advanced to a second-round clash with defending champion and top seed Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Nishikori, who like the other top-four seeds received a first-round bye, is defending his Memphis crown after helping Japan beat Canada in the first round of the Davis Cup earlier this month.
Baghdatis, who reached the Australian Open final in 2006, beat US qualifier Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-4 to book a date with Australian third seed Lleyton Hewitt.
Baghdatis, ranked 134th in the world, has not won two matches in a row since last year’s US Open, when he lost in the third round to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who went on to win the Australian Open last month.
Since then, Baghdatis has lost eight of his past 10 matches, but against Ram he was lethal, firing 10 aces and dispatching his opponent in just 75 minutes.
Karlovic blasted 14 aces to beat Aussie Matthew Ebden 7-5, 6-4 and advance to a second-round meeting with Spanish second seed Feliciano Lopez.
Meanwhile, Kazakh eighth seed Mikhail Kukushkin battled past Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 7-6 (11/9), 7-5.
Kukushkin could face fourth-seed Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan in the quarter-finals.
US sixth seed Sam Querrey squandered 18 aces and a match point in the decisive tie-breaker in losing to Russian Alex Bogomolov, whose 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) triumph after two hours and two minutes gave him to a second-round match with American Ryan Harrison.
The winner of that tiecould face Nishikori in the quarter-finals.