Eighth seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg launched the ATP Chennai Open with a gruelling three-set win over last year’s finalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France on Monday.
The big-serving Muller was stretched by the valiant Frenchman before winning 6-7 (11/13), 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) in two hours and 23 minutes on a stifling, humid evening in Chennai.
Seventh seed Marcel Granollers of Spain conceded his first round match against Andreas Haider-Maurer due to a knee injury after the Austrian took a 2-0 lead in the third set.
Haider-Maurer won 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 2-0 after two hours on an outside court at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium.
Roger-Vasselin, who squeezed through in the first set tie-breaker, paid the price for gifting the second set to Muller so that he could return fresh for the decider.
Muller seized the opportunity and played consistent tennis in the final set to advance to the second round of the $450,000 season-opening event.
“I must admit the tactic of giving up the second set so that I could be ready for the third did not work,” the 31-year-old Roger-Vasellin told AFP.
“I had my chances in the third set, but he played better than me, especially in the tie-breaker.
“This was obviously not a good start to the year, but that is tennis. You have to take the good with the bad. Last year I reached the final and today I am out in the first round.”
The Frenchman, who lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2014 final, will play next week in Sydney.
Muller, ranked 46th in the world, said he was relieved to start the new season with a win.
“My game is not consistent and it showed again today,” he said. “I should learn to be more aggressive. I should have won the first set but I am happy I did not give in.”
In the last match on Monday night, Croatia’s rising star Borna Coric brushed aside Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-2.
Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion and world number four, leads the 32-man field which includes a strong Spanish contingent of 14th-ranked Feliciano Lopez, number 15 Roberto Bautista-Agut and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Other leading contenders are Belgium’s David Goffin and Taiwanese veteran Yen-Hsun Lu.
The top four seeds — Wawrinka, Lopez, Bautista-Agut and Goffin — have received a bye in the first round. The champion will pocket $73,400 and 250 ranking points.