Valencia: Andy Murray's return to form continued as he progressed to the second round of the Valencia Open on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Austria's Jurgen Melzer. Top seed David Ferrer was also victorious 6-3, 7-5 over Italy's Andreas Seppi, but second seeded Czech Thomas Berdych crashed out 6-3, 6-2 against Spaniard Pablo Andujar.
The British number one claimed his second title of the season in Vienna last week and is hoping to boost his chances of reaching the World Tour Finals in London next month with another strong showing in Spain. And despite looking far from sure on his own serve, the two-time Grand Slam champion had too much for Melzer to extend his head-to-head record over the world number 121 to 7-0.
"The court is a bit slower than in Vienna and it took me a few games to adapt, but after that I was better," said Murray. "I like the conditions at this tournament, there is a nice climate and I come here now and again to practice indoors." Murray is competing for the fifth straight week having also won in Shenzhen last month and is happy with how his form has progressed in the final part of the year. "I have been improving throughout the season.
I didn't start the year as well as I have been playing in the last three months when I have felt a lot better." After an early exchange of breaks, Murray took control of the first set as he broke Melzer's serve twice more to close it out 6-3. A similar pattern ensued in the second set with both players throwing their racquets in frustration as there were four breaks of serve in the opening seven games.
However, Murray made the decisive break to move ahead 5-3 and served it out despite having to save two break points. Next up for the Scot is a meeting with Italian Fabio Fognini in round two on Thursday. Ferrer was also far from his best, but battled past Seppi to set up an all-Spanish last 16 tie with Fernando Verdasco.
Indeed the three-time champion in Valencia had trailed 5-2 in the second set before reeling off five straight games to finish off the Italian. Both Murray and Ferrer's Tour Finals chances were also boosted by defeat for Berdych earlier in the day to local favourite Pablo Andujar 6-3, 6-3. "I think it was a very special match for me, here in Valencia, with my friends and family cheering for me," said Andujar.
"I tried to be as solid as I could, then when I had the chance I attempted to hit it as hard as I could. I know Tomas is more powerful than I am, so if I just put the ball in, he would destroy me." The world number six arrived in Spain full of confidence having won in Stockholm last week.
However, the Czech looked out of sorts as Andujar dominanted throughout and fittingly sealed victory with a brilliant cross-court forehand winner. The world number 46 will play Serbia's Dusan Lajovic in the second round. Last year's champion Mikhail Youzhny of Russia also suffered a earlier exit as he was beaten by Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci 7-5, 6-3.