ROTTERDAM, February 11 – Top seed Rafael Nadal, fresh from his Australian Open win, ousted Italian Simone Bolelli 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the second round of the Rotterdam Open on Wednesday.
The Mallorcan world number one, who now faces Bulgarian junior Wimbledon and US champion Grigor Dimitrov, said he was unruffled after losing the opening set as he soon got into the swing of things thereafter.
"I deserved this win," said Nadal. "I had all of the chances and he didn’t. I also had two match points. I picked up my game in the third set and started serving better.
"I found my rhythm, but I had a bad game in the first set before I started playing better. I’m in the second round and I expect a better result. I’m hoping to play better."
The French contingent meanwhile continued their early good form at the start of the European indoor season, with Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga leading a gang of four to victories.
Of the ten Frenchmen who began the week at the Ahoy centre, seven remain in contention, with only Richard Gasquet and qualifiers Arnaud Clement and Laurent Recouderc defeated so far.
Sixth seed Simon, who made a breakthrough in 2008 with three titles, got off to a winning start with a defeat of German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-6 (7-1).
Tsonga, fresh from a title in Johannesburg, continued onto his 13th win of the season against just two defeats, He beat local wild card Jesse Huta Galung 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) in just under two hours.
Simon, playing for the first time since an Australian Open quarter-final against Nadal, said that back pain at the weekend left him wondering about the state of his game.
"I had a terrible practice on Sunday here with Richard (Gasquet)," said the world number eight. "That’s why I asked to start only on Wednesday.
"I’ve not been able to train a lot and had no idea about how it would go. I was not so great from the baseline today but my serving surprisingly saved me. That’s not so usual for me."
Simon saved break points in the 11th game of his first set against Kohlschreiber, hanging on to lift the set and moved through as he won a second-set tiebreaker.
Tsonga is making his Rotterdam debut in the wake of the third title of his career. He fired 15 aces in overcoming Galung, who was playing his first ATP-level match of the season.
2007 winner Mikhail Youzhny led a fellow former champion to victory as the Russian struggles to recover a game gone off the boil.
Youzhny, ranked 62nd, booked the first of the quarter-final places as he upset sixth seed David Ferrer 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
French defending champion Michael Llodra began his title defence on a strong note, taming the huge serve of Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round despite 25 aces from the towering Croatian.
Youzhny, with only two previous wins this season, will face either Simon or Croatian Mario Ancic. Ancic, losing finalist at the weekend in Zagreb, put out another German, defeating veteran Rainer Schuettler 7-5, 6-2.
"I’m pleased with this win, but I need to regain my consistency," said Youzhny, "I was down 5-0 in the second set in about ten minutes. I had a chance to break back but I couldn’t. But if I keep plying like this I hope I can make a comeback."
The Russian, 26, is battling to recover from his lowest ATP ranking since 2002 after dropping 2008 Australian Open quarter-finalist points.
He owns four career titles, the last earned at the start of 2008 in Chennai.