Andy Murray opened his Valencia Open challenge with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer, although his performance failed to inspire in the Spanish city.
In a match littered with poor serves and unforced errors, the third seed, who won the title here in 2009, just about held the edge to progress through to a second-round meeting with Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
Murray is playing in his fifth consecutive tournament, having won in Vienna last weekend, and is looking to secure his place at the ATP World Tour Finals next month, but will have to improve significantly if he is to better the result of rival David Ferrer, who is the top seed in Spain and aiming to bump the Scot from his current eighth place in the race for London.
Murray, who came into the contest with a 6-0 head-to-head record against the Austrian, looked settled in the early stages and was a break up in just the third game when Melzer put a weak forehand into the net.
However, his serve then went off the boil and a double fault by the Scot gave his Austrian opponent an immediate break back, although Melzer’s wide return in game five again put Murray in the driving seat.
Murray battled once more to hold his next service game but this time the outcome was more favourable as the third seed took a 4-2 lead.
Although the world No 10 continued to perform below par, the occasional flash of brilliance – coupled with an ill-timed and costly double fault by Melzer – helped him secure the opening set in 41 minutes.
It was Melzer who drew first blood in the second set, breaking in the opening game with a tidy forehand across the court.
It was not a match for tennis purists, with too many unforced errors and ugly shots from both men, and it was no surprise Murray when broke straight back after Melzer fired wide.
An upturn in form then looked on the cards when Murray won his next two service games to love, and his fortunes improved further in game six when he fought back from 0-40 to break once more.
Yet the Scot could not hold on to his advantage, and another poor forehand found the net to leave the set back on serve.
The topsy-turvy nature continued as a lazy, underhit shot by Melzer gifted his opponent one more break and left Murray serving for the match.
And although he did it the hard way, saving two break points, the Scot eventually emerged the winner thanks to another error by Melzer.
In Singapore, Simona Halep crushed world No 1 Serena Williams 6-0, 6-2 to record her best ever win the WTA Finals. The Romanian made it two wins out of two in the Red Group by inflicting one of the heaviest defeats of Williams’ career.
Halep, the fourth seed, took apart her opponent’s serve in the first set, allowing the American to win just six points on serve on the way to breaking three times.
Williams improved in the second set, carving out six break points, but Halep saved them all and took her two break opportunities to seal a famous win.
Williams paid tribute to her conqueror afterwards, saying on Twitter: “In summary Simona Halep played great. Good job and Good luck.”