Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych worked for more than 90 minutes before taming Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 to reach the second round of Rotterdam World Tennis.
Berdych, hoping to repeat history after winning the 2014 trophy against Marin Cilic – top seed at this edition – fired 11 aces, the same as the 134th-ranked Copil.
“I won in 2014, but I’m not superstitious. It would be a nice tradition to do it (win) again,” Berdych said, as he made his 10th appearance at the tournament. “I like to come here, it’s always a tough field with a lot of good players.
“I’m trying to bring more consistency to my serve and make it more unpredictable. That would be good for me – not for the others.”
Elsewhere on opening day, Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) while local hero Robin Haase advanced against German Florian Mayer 7-5 7-6 (7-3). Russian Evgeny Donskoy beat Spain’s Marcel Granollers 6-4 6-4.
With the late injury pullouts last week of Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka, the spotlight is on top seed Cilic, who faces his opening test on Tuesday against Benoit Paire.
Other big names in the tournament include last week’s young gun title-winners Alexander Zverev (Montpellier) and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov (Sofia).