When last we left Andy Roddick, he was triumphantly standing alone on Center Court in Mason, on the cusp of becoming the next great American men's tennis player.
Charismatic and powerful - however unrefined his raw talent - Roddick won over Cincinnati fans as he claimed last year's Western & Southern Financial Group Masters title. The momentum didn't stop there. Three weeks later, Roddick won his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open and finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world.
It's a more celebrated, accomplished and polished Roddick who returns this week to the Lindner Family Tennis Center, where bracket play begins today.
But, just like a year ago, questions linger about his future. Only this time it's not when he'll get to the top, but how long he'll stay there.
Roddick, 21, is no longer the whimsical kid, as his coach Brad Gilbert puts it, who might do something big someday. He is now the top U.S. player, and in world ranking trails only Switzerland's Roger Federer, who defeated Roddick Sunday in the championship of the Tennis Masters Canada.
Roddick represents one reason tennis might stop its popularity slide in America.
"I'm not an idiot," Roddick said. "I know we need Americans at the top of the game to have interest in this game in this country. We're not exactly at the top of the totem pole as far as the general public's interest goes as far as sports. My responsibility is to try to promote the game and help it as much as possible."
He has large shoes to fill. The American tennis greats before him, most notably Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang, enjoyed lengthy careers on the ATP Tour.
All but Chang won multiple Grand Slams. Agassi, seeded 11th this week, is playing in his 19th season on the tour.
So does Roddick have the same kind of staying power?
"The comparisons (to other great players) now are somewhat validated, whereas before, when I was No. 10, 15 in the world and people were throwing that out there, I almost felt embarrassed about it," Roddick said. "It was like I can't help what's being written, but I don't feel like I'm there. At least now I'm contending for majors. I've won a major. I've finished No. 1, so at least there is some basis for comparison."
Good health in their early 20s was a key for the last generation of American players, and the hard-serving Roddick isn't taking any chances in his fourth season as a professional.
In what is viewed as a sign of his seriousness about fitness, Roddick hired Doug Spreen, a former ATP trainer, as his personal trainer. One of Spreen's goals is to strengthen Roddick's shoulder so it can withstand years of hammering 150-mile-an-hour serves.
"He's building himself for the long haul hiring Doug," said U.S. Davis Cup and Olympic team captain Patrick McEnroe. "That's a great addition by Andy. That's just Andy maturing, understanding he needs the right people around him, building a great team."
Roddick also removed a distraction last winter, when he broke off his relationship with singer-actress Mandy Moore.
That decision hardly diminished his fame: Fans at practice sessions number in the hundreds, and just two weeks ago Roddick hung out with NFL quarterbacks and model Brooke Burke at the Playboy Mansion during an awards ceremony shoot.
"He can't just walk through the crowd anymore," Gilbert says. "He has to have security. But not by his choice; these things just take a little adjusting to."
The hype and hope around Roddick is heavy, and for good reason. Men's tennis finished 19th in a 2003 ESPN poll that gauged Americans' interest in particular sports, down from 16th in 2001
The Women's Tennis Association, horse racing, boxing and the PGA Champions Tour were among the sports that fared better than the ATP in the most recent poll.
"You know as a tennis player the worst thing you can do is get caught up in this," Gilbert says. "The people that run the game have got to do a better job of that. That's their responsibility."
But Roddick can't help but opine about the state of tennis. He feels that a potential rivalry between himself and Federer could drum up more enthusiasm for the sport.
"I look forward to the chance of playing Roger as many times as possible," Roddick says. "When tennis has been at its most successful stages, it has had rivalries. That doesn't just pertain to tennis. That pertains to any sport you can think of. Rivalries create interest."
He and Gilbert concede, however, that Roddick will have to win a few more matches against Federer before it can be considered a rivalry. The Swiss champion is 7-1 all-time against Roddick, including a tough, four-set victory in this year's Wimbledon men's finals.
"I felt like I was a couple games away at Wimbledon," Roddick says. "I feel like I'm in contention for every slam that I enter. You have to put Roger as the favorite, but I think Roger and I have put up the most solid results in the past year or so."
For now, Gilbert said, Roddick shouldn't measure himself against other players.
"You know where he's at right now," Gilbert says of Roddick. "He's 21 and a guy 22 (Federer), one year older than him, is doing a lot of amazing things. That's why I say you judge yourself against yourself and get better. That's all he can do. It puts a lot of pressure on yourself if, 'I have to win here' or 'I have to win that.' Andy's got amazing talent, and hopefully with all those things together, good things will happen."
08-02-2004, 09:24 PM
Fish is looking for a big splash
Mardy Fish needs the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters to get his summer going.
The 22-year-old American who reached the finals here last year, hasn't won consistently over the last two months, which has caused his ranking to stall at No. 18.After finishing last season No. 20, Fish had hoped to be the next American after Andy Roddick to break into the upper echelon of the world rankings. The highest he has moved up this year was to No. 17 on March 22.
"My goal at the beginning of this year was to break into the top 10 by the end of the year," said Fish, who's reached the finals of two International Series tournaments this year. "I got injured before big tournaments and didn't play. I had a little bad luck in Grand Slams and some of the Masters Series tournaments. I'd hope to peak at this part of the year in the middle of the hardcourt season."
Unfortunately, he lost his first match two weeks ago in Indianapolis and had to sit out last week's Tennis Masters Series event with back problems.
But he's back in Cincinnati, the site of his breakthrough performance where he lost an entertaining championship match to Roddick last year. Fish opens the tournament today against Andre Agassi.
POWER PLAY: There are effective servers, and then there's Ivo Karlovic. The Croatian qualifier will play Wesley Moodie today in the first round, and aces should be expected in high volume.
The ATP's season leader for aces is Roddick, who has 666 aces through 58 matches. Karlovic has played just 30 matches and has 580 aces, a rate of 19.3 per match.
"It's important because the serve is my biggest weapon," Karlovic said. "I use it as best I can."
While Karlovic's serve is rarely broken, he often struggles to break his opponent's serve, which results in several tiebreaker situations.
Last year in Wimbledon, he beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in a second-set tiebreaker before pulling off the shocking first-round upset of the No. 1 seed.
SWINGING BACK: Having been exonerated in March by the ATP for a positive drug test last year, British player Greg Rusedski continued his comeback by qualifying for the main draw Sunday. He'll face Thomas Enqvist today in the first round.
Rusedski missed much of the first half of the season because of the original charges and his ranking dropped to No. 118. It's up to No. 88 this week.
Said Rusedski: "I'm starting to get that mental toughness and match toughness that I was lacking for the first part of this year."
08-02-2004, 09:25 PM
Four former champions on the court opening day
Four of the five former Western & Southern Financial Group Masters champions in this year's field will be in action today when the main draw begins. The day will be highlighted by the all-American matchup of two-time winner Andre Agassi (1995-96) and 2003 runner-up Mardy Fish.
That will be the third match on Center Court in the day session, which begins at 11 a.m.
Other former winners playing in the day session are 2002 champ Carlos Moya (vs. Arvind Parmar) and 2000 titlist Thomas Enqvist (vs. Greg Rusedski). Gustavo Kuerten, who won here in 2001, will face Yen-Hsun Lu in the evening session.
The other former winner in the field, defending champ Andy Roddick, gets today off because he played in the Tennis Masters Canada finals Sunday. His first-round match with Max Mirnyi will be Tuesday.
Sunday, two players pulled out of the main draw: No. 6 seed David Nalbandian and David Sanchez. Both cited unspecified injuries.
That created some shuffling in the draw. Juan Ignacio Chela, the highest-ranked unseeded player, becomes the 17th seed. He moves to fill Nalbandian's vacant spot - facing Rafael Nadal - to keep the seeds spread equally. Wayne Arthurs and Gregory Carraz are the "lucky losers" - the highest seeds to have lost in the final round of qualifying - added to the field.
In beating Roddick on Sunday, top seed Roger Federer has now won 23 consecutive matches and 31 of his last 32. But he is just 1-3 in Cincinnati. He'll play Dominik Hrbaty on Tuesday.
The focus today will be on Fish and Agassi. Fish won their only prior meeting 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in February in the San Jose hard-court semifinals.
"Mardy is certainly a talent," Agassi said.
08-02-2004, 09:26 PM
Federer arrives on streak
Roger Federer brings a three-tournament winning streak this week into the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Mason, Ohio.
Federer, the world's top-ranked player defeated Andy Roddick, 7-5, 6-3, in the final of the $2.5 million Tennis Masters Canada on Sunday in Toronto.
Federer, who won his eighth event of the year, extended his winning streak to 23 matches and raised his career record against the No. 2-ranked Roddick to 7-1. Roddick is the defending champion of the Western & Southern Masters, which begins today.
Federer's 23-match win streak is the longest on the men's tour since Pete Sampras won 24 straight five years ago.
Four former singles champions of the Western & Southern Masters will be in action today at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Andre Agassi, singles champ in 1995 and 1996, Carlos Moya (2002) and Thomas Enqvist (2000) will play in the day session. Gustavo Kuerten, who won in 2001, will highlight the night session.
08-03-2004, 05:24 AM
Hewitt, Arthurs advance in Cincinnati
Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt has recorded an easy first-up win at the Masters Series event in Cincinnati.
The former world number one, who won titles at Sydney and Rotterdam earlier in the year, had little trouble dispatching American Alex Bogomolov 6-2, 6-4.
Despite five double faults, Hewitt served adeptly in the 75-minute match, posting 14 aces and never facing a break point.
Bogomolov, a top rated junior back in 2001 who has yet to make a mark on the pro tour, watched helplessly as Hewitt took advantage of three of eight service breaks opportunities - in the third and seventh games of the first set and the fifth game of the second set.
Hewitt said he hopes to use this tournament as a springboard for the US Open later this month.
"I'm just trying to get some match practice and get your confidence level up in big tournaments against quality opposition," Hewitt said.
"If you're winning matches here, then you're obviously going to be confident going into New York."
Fellow Australian Wayne Arthurs made the most of his late call-up to the main draw, advancing to the second round with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 victory over 16th seed Andrei Pavel.
Arthurs earned a spot as a lucky loser from the qualifying matches, with injury forcing three players to withdraw.
In other results, Andre Agassi gained a measure of revenge when his opponent Mardy Fish retired at 4-6, 7-6, 4-1.
American Fish quit in the third set because of a back injury, allowing the former world number one to advance to the second round.
"It's disappointing when a match ends like that," the 34-year-old Agassi said.
"But I was happy with the way I was playing as the match went on and was hitting through my shots more, which is a good sign for me."
Agassi, who has been struggling to find his form in recent months, was beaten by Fish in an emotional match in the semi-final of the Siebel Open in February.
He lost in the first round of the French Open in May, one of three consecutive opening round defeats, and missed Wimbledon.
Spaniard Carlos Moya, another former champion, was also tested.
The world number four was a set and a service break down against British qualifier Arvind Parmar before wriggling out of trouble with some patient baseline work. Moya won 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Earlier, French Open champion Gaston Gaudio found some hard court form, dispatching American Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 6-2.
The Argentinian ninth-seed lost a three-set first-round match to Australian qualifier Todd Reid last week at the Toronto event, his first hard court tournament appearance since the French Open.
"For me, it's really hard to play on all surfaces because I prefer the clay," Gaudio said.
"But I have to play on all of them. I played OK. I think I am getting used to this surface because before last week I was not so good."
Gaudio, who won his third career title at Roland Garros, followed that first Grand Slam victory with three final appearances at clay court tournaments - Bastad, Stuttgart and Kitzbuhel.
"My personal life didn't change so much, I still have the same friends, coach and trainer," Gaudio said of winning Roland Garros.
"On the outside, when I'm in Buenos Aires, like in a shop, more people recognise me than before.
"It gave me so much confidence. I don't get pissed off or mad as much as I used to on the court."
Top seed and world number one Roger Federer, who defeated defending champion Andy Roddick in the Toronto final yesterday will play Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia in the first round tomorrow.
Despite the quick turnaround, Federer came to the tournament to practice for a half hour today.
"It's just about being ready to play each match," Federer said. "Im hitting the ball fine."
On the comeback trail this year, Tommy Haas of Germany upset eighth seed Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, while Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela joined Gaudio in the second round with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Spanish teen Rafael Nadal.
Dutchman Sjeng Schalken scored a 6-4, 6-3 win over Dick Norman of Belgium.
08-03-2004, 05:25 AM
Agassi and Hewitt advance in Cincy Masters
Two-time champion Andre Agassi overcame last year's runner-up Mardy Fish in Monday's opening-round action at the $2.45 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
The 11th-seeded Agassi dropped the first set against his fellow American Fish before fighting back for a 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 4-1 decision on the hardcourts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. Fish was forced to retire due to a back injury.
Agassi, a second-round loser in last week's Canada Masters, captured this Cincinnati event in 1995 and 1996, while Fish was last year's runner-up to compatriot and good friend Andy Roddick.
Hewitt, who reached the final here in 2002, will move on to the second round after disposing of Alex Bogomolov Jr., 6-2, 6-4.
Fourth-seeded and former Cincy titlist Carlos Moya moved on Monday with a come-from-behind 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Britain's Arvind Parmar. The Spanish Moya won this tournament in 2002.
Eighth-seeded Rainer Schuettler was unable to avoid an upset, as he succumbed to fellow German Tommy Haas 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
In other seeded action, No. 9 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina grounded American Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 6-2; No. 14 Russian Marat Safin subdued Czech Jiri Novak 6-3, 6-0; big-serving Aussie Wayne Arthurs erased No. 16 Romanian Andrei Pavel 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; and No. 15 Paradorn Srichaphan got by David Ferrer 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Day-1 first-round wins also came for Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela, Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, Croat Ivo Karlovic, Armenian Sargis Sargsian, Fernando Gonzalez, Greg Rusedski, Gustavo Kuerten and Ivan Ljubicic.
Cincinnati marks the seventh of nine Masters Series events this season, with the winner set to take home $400,000. The top seed is world No. 1 Swiss Roger Federer, who beat Roddick in this past Sunday's Canada Masters final to corral his fourth straight title and 23rd-straight match victory.
08-03-2004, 05:31 AM
Agassi Struggles, but Wins in Cincinnati
Andre Agassi won his opening match Monday at the $2.5 million Tennis Masters Cincinnati when Mardy Fish quit during the third set because of a sore back.
Agassi, 34, isn't sure whether this will be his final year on the tour and is hoping to be back in form in time for the U.S. Open. Agassi, seeded 11th, has recovered from a sore hip that bothered him this summer.
His goal in Cincinnati is to build up confidence.
"I need all these matches now to do that," Agassi said. "I've got to string a few together now. So it would be really nice to see my game elevate as the tournament progresses."
Agassi lost the first set 4-6, then pulled out a second-set tiebreaker 7-3 when Fish double-faulted. He led 4-1 in the third set when Fish quit because of a sore back, which also forced him to withdraw from last week's tournament in Toronto.
Tommy Haas continued his comeback from shoulder surgery by pulling off the biggest upset of the opening round, beating eighth-seeded Rainer Schuettler in three sets. The rest of the top seeds advanced.
French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, fourth-seeded Carlos Moya and 14th-seed Marat Safin also won first-round matches.
Haas, who got a wild-card berth for the tournament, beat Schuettler for the first time in five matches, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. He broke Schuettler's serve in the final game and clinched the win when Schuettler sent a backhand wide.
"I finally got a win," Haas said. "It certainly wasn't a pretty match. In the end, it came down to a couple of points here and there."
Haas has been making a steady recovery from shoulder problems. He didn't play last year after rotator cuff surgery.
Gaudio, seeded ninth, beat Jan Michael-Gambrill 6-4, 6-2 to open the tournament. Moya needed three sets to eliminate qualifier Arvind Parmar 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. Safin beat Jiri Novak 6-3, 6-0.
Sixteenth-seeded Andrei Pavel was the first seeded player eliminated, losing to Wayne Arthurs 7-6 (5), 6-3. The first-round loss was Pavel's fourth in five appearances in the tournament.
08-03-2004, 05:33 AM
Rusedski fights back for victory
Britons served up a mixed bag in the opening round of the the Cincinnati Masters last night with a disappointing loss and a come-from-behind win.
Greg Rusedski, having failed in his appeal to the ATP to recommend him to tournaments for wild cards, got his campaign off to a winning start.
A qualifier for this event, Rusedski beat the Swede Thomas Enqvist 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
But Arvind Parmar must be the most frustrated player in British tennis. The tall man from Hitchin has a fine serve, a beefy forehand and a still developing game, yet remains remembered for the Davis Cup debacle against Ecuador in the tie he was not really ready for, and every time he comes close to making his name for something else, it gets blocked.
His best win at Wimbledon was swamped by other people's deeds. His Davis Cup progress in Luxembourg was derailed by an injury break. And yesterday, after a very good win over the former Canadian Masters Series finalist Harel Levy carried him to the main draw of a Masters Series for the first time, Parmar found himself landed with Carlos Moya, the champion here two years ago and now in the world's top four.
Worse was to follow. Moya clearly had not heard that this was the man who came with a recommendation from Pete Sampras, after giving the great man a fright at Queen's, and it took him an hour, by which time he was a set and a break down, to realise he had to dig deep and work harder.
The rest is predictable. The Spaniard recovered to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 and the Brit was left, yet again, to ruminate on what might have been.
But actually the course of the match was not predictable. Parmar had a pattern which worked.
He used backhand slices cleverly to lure mistakes from his opponent, he had a particularly deceptive serve from the left court down the middle and he kept some of his best weapons in reserve until he needed them.
The crucial moments came when Parmar was serving to lead 4-2 in the second set, lost his delivery to love, finishing with a double fault. The other breaks, in the final game of the second set and at 4-2 in the final set, came after moments of special enterprise from Moya after a succession of well-contested rallies.
But it will be no surprise to have found that poor Parmar has thrown himself into the River Ohio some time today.
Tim Henman will probably start today and will be returning to the venue where in 2000 he scored a famous victory over Pete Sampras and followed it by beating Gustavo Kuerten, then the world No1, and going on to reach the final.
He starts in Cincinnati against Younes El Aynaoui, which should be interesting, because the Moroccan he has not played in the tour since retiring with a foot injury at the Australian Open in January.
08-03-2004, 05:35 AM
Agassi, Moya advance while Fish, Coria quit in Cincinnati
American veteran Andre Agassi advanced past the first round and took a revenge when his opponent and fellow American Mardy Fish retired at 4-6, 7-6, 4-1 in the Cincinnati Masters tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday.
Fish, losing finalist last year, quit in the third set because of a back injury, allowing the former world number one to advance to the second round.
Agassi, 34, who has been struggling to find his form in recent months, was beaten by Fish in an emotional semi-final of the Siebel Open in February.
It looked as though the eight-times grand slam winner was heading for another early exit when unable to convert a break point at 4-3. He then lost his next service game as Fish clinchedthe first set.
Agassi stamped his authority in the second set tie-break, usinghis power and control from the baseline to win 7-3.
The younger American's power disappeared in the third set and he eventually succumbed to the back injury when trailing 4-1.
Spaniard Carlos Moya, another former champion, was also tested.The world number four was a set and a service break down against British qualifier Arvind Parmar before wriggling out of trouble with some patient baseline work. Moya won 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Guillermo Coria of Argentina, meanwhile, pulled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury sustained last week in Toronto.
08-03-2004, 05:37 AM
Haas beats Schuettler at Cincinnati
Eighth-seeded German Rainer Schuettler was the first seed to fall by the wayside at the ATP Tour's Cincinnati Masters event on Monday as he was beaten 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 by Tommy Haas, a compatriot on the comeback trail after injury.
Schuettler, the eighth seed, had lost his sixth consecutive match on hard courts since February to an old friend.
Haas paid tribute to the loser afterwards.
There were also wins for the Argentinian duo of Gaston Gaudio and Juan Ignacio Chela and fourth-seeded Spaniard Carlos Moya at the $2.45-million dollar event at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The evening session will feature players of the calibre of American Andre Agassi, Marat Safin of Russia, Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.
Gaston Gaudio faced American wild card Jan-Michael Gambill, and eased to a 6-4, 6-2 victory in straight sets.
The match between Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina and Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal went to a third and deciding set before an exquisite backhand cross-court winner from Chela sealed a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory and a place in round two.
08-03-2004, 05:38 AM
Full Results - Monday, August 2, 2004
Singles - First Round
(4)C Moya (ESP) d (Q)A Parmar (GBR) 36 75 62
(9)G Gaudio (ARG) d (WC)J.M Gambill (USA) 64 62
(LL)W Arthurs (AUS) d (16)A Pavel (ROM) 76(5) 63
S Schalken (NED) d (Q)D Norman (BEL) 63 63
(WC)T Haas (GER) d (8)R Schuettler (GER) 63 16 64
(11)A Agassi (USA) d M Fish (USA) 46 76(3) 21 Ret. (Back injury)
(14)M Safin (RUS) d J Novak (CZE) 63 60
(15)P Srichaphan (THA) d D Ferrer (ESP) 63 57 63
(17)J Chela (ARG) d R Nadal (ESP) 64 46 76(3)
(Q)I Karlovic (CRO) d (Q)W Moodie (RSA) 76(2) 67(6) 76(9)
S Sargsian (ARM) d (Q)M Kratochvil (SUI) 26 62 75
(10)L Hewitt (AUS) d (WC)A Bogomolov Jr. (USA) 62 64
I Ljubicic (CRO) d X Malisse (BEL) 46 76(5) 76(5)
(Q)G Rusedski (GBR) d T Enqvist (SWE) 36 63 62
F Gonzalez (CHI) d (Q)D Tursunov (RUS) 64 64
G Kuerten (BRA) d (Q)Y Lu (TPE) 64 36 63
Doubles - First Round
Schuettler/Youzhny d Clement/Grosjean 67(4) 64 62
Erlich/Ram d (WC)Ginepri/Morrison 63 64
Hrbaty/Pavel d Etlis/Rodriguez 63 36 76(7)
08-03-2004, 08:39 AM
Rusedski proves his point with Cincinnati win
Greg Rusedski, the centre of a contamination controversy which brought speculation about changes in tennis' anti-doping programme, hit out at his critics after winning at the Masters Series on Monday.
Rusedski was forced to qualify because his ranking plummeted while he was fighting his innocence, and after beating the 2000 champion Thomas Enqvist 3-6 6-3 6-2 in the first round claimed he had something to prove.
"The nice thing is coming into press conferences and talking about winning matches. You could pick anyone in the locker room with the same situation as me," Rusedski said, referring to the risk of contamination causing a positive drugs test.
The Canada-born Briton also said: "I think I have something to prove. A lot of people had written me off and I think I have answered them pretty well in the last three or four weeks.
"Some people said I would be on the Challenger circuit every week or even playing Futures tournaments," Rusedski said, later adding: "Every time I have had a problem in my career I have come back."
Rusedski is doing just that despite a lack of the wild cards which he had hoped the ATP's recommendation to tournaments would secure for him, following a successful appeal against a positive test at a Montreal tribunal earlier this year.
Since then the former world number four has won the Campbell Hall of Fame title in Newport, Rhode Island, risen from outside the top 100 to 88 in the world, and ensured himself a place at the U.S. Open where he was a finalist in 1997.
"I proved a lot to myself by winning Newport after everything I have been through," he said.
"And this week I have proved that I deserve a main draw place."
Rusedski's next opponent is Argentina's Gaston Gaudio, the French Open champion and ninth seed, who may struggle to live up to his ranking on hard courts.
Earlier, two other former champions, Carlos Moya, the 2003 winner, and Andre Agassi, a winner in 1995 and 1996, narrowly survived first round scares.
Moya was a set down and a break of serve down at 2-3 in the second set against another British qualifier, Arvind Parmar, before winning 3-6 7-5 6-3.
Agassi was within a handful of points of defeat in the second set tie-breaker against Mardy Fish, before winning 4-6 7-6 4-1 when his fellow American pulled out with a bad back.
It was a measure of revenge for Agassi's emotional loss to Fish in San Jose in February.
"I am just trying to get my game back to where I know it can be," the 34-year-old Agassi said, making an oblique answer to retirement speculation.
"I hope I can see my best tennis again. But you know only time will tell."