Andy Murray last night began his Rotterdam mission with a satisfying straight-sets win over French player Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Awaiting Murray in the second round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament is Austrian Dominic Thiem, who got the better of Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in a deciding set.
The Scot won 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and a half at the Ahoy venue where he is attempting to be champion for a second time, having beaten Rafael Nadal in the 2009 final.
It was not a classic performance from Murray, who entered the tournament on a late wild card, but he comfortably had enough to see out the job.
Having returned from back surgery, Murray has reached the Australian Open quarter-finals and helped Britain through to the Davis Cup quarter-finals already this season. Last night, he had immediate chances to break serve but could not capitalise, only to make a breakthrough on the Roger-Vasselin serve in the third game, which proved to be the key moment of the set.
Murray had beaten Roger-Vasselin in each of their previous two matches, without dropping a set. Those matches came on clay in Monte Carlo last year and on hard court at the 2012 Australian Open. On the indoor hard surface in Rotterdam it was clear who held the upper hand, with Murray’s counter-attacking negating his opponent’s threat. Roger-Vasselin, at the age of 30, is at a career-high 35th place in the world rankings, but Wimbledon champion Murray had his number early on.
The underdog saved two set points in the opener, but Murray created a third with a powerful forehand down the line and followed it up with another telling winner that clipped the left line. A break in the second game of the second set put Murray in control, and although it was not convincing from the second seed after that, he closed the door each time Roger-Vasselin created an opening.
Murray faced two break points in the fifth game and again in the seventh, but each time he climbed out of the hole, and he sealed his progress when Roger-Vasselin chipped a backhand inches long.
In the doubles event, Ross Hutchins suffered a first-round loss with a new partner. Hutchins teamed up with Dutch 28-year-old Jesse Huta Galung but the experienced French pair of Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut had their measure and posted a 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 victory.
At the Qatar Open, top seed Li Na came through her second round match but dropped a set in her defeat of Magdalena Rybarikova. The Australian Open champion took two hours and 13 minutes to see off the challenge of world No 32 Rybarikova to win 6-1 5-7 6-2. Li will now face qualifier Petra Cetkovska after she beat Zhang Shuai 6-3, 4-6 ,6-3.
Third seed Petra Kvitova battled into the third round when she claimed victory in a third set tie-break to defeat Venus Williams. Kvitova eased through the first set before the American hit back, but the Czech player won the battle of former Wimbledon champions to record a 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7) victory. Eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki was knocked out 6-4, 7-5 by Yanina Wickmayer while Angelique Kerber beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7/2), 6-4. Ana Ivanovic, meanwhile, was defeated 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 by Klara Zakopalova.