Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal and titleholder Stan Wawrinka both expressed quiet relief at getting back to clay after opening wins on Wednesday at the Monte Carlo Masters.
For third seed Nadal, his 6-2 6-1 second-round victory against French wildcard Lucas Pouille came as a huge relief after a poor season and just one small South American trophy since winning a ninth Roland Garros title last May.
“I’m glad to be back here and playing on clay,” said the Spaniard who improved his Monaco record to 51 wins and just three losses as he moved into the third round.
He never faced a break point on serve while breaking his opponent three times.
Nadal spent 68 minutes in proving he will not roll over on his preferred surface even after a month of poor hardcourt results and a general lack of confidence after his ranking fell to fifth.
He has not won in Monte Carlo since 2012, going out in the 2013 final to Novak Djokovic and losing in the quarters a year ago to countryman David Ferrer.
Switzerland’s Wawrinka began his week with a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Argentine Juan Monaco to progress to the third round.
The Swiss was also glad to get some red dirt in his socks after an indifferent past few months.
“I’m happy to change, to come on clay again. The conditions are great here, so I’m happy with the first match.
“Since I wasn’t playing well in practice, I consider this match as a good one. There were ups and downs, but that’s normal for a first match.
“I’m satisfied with my level, physically and mentally. I was able to be aggressive.
“It’s been really difficult over the last two months (Marseille quarter-final and second and third-round defeats in the US).”
The seventh seed, who lifted his first elite Masters 1000 title in Monaco a year ago as he beat compatriot Roger Federer for the title, spent 71 minutes in getting past Monaco.
Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open winner, will next face ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-4.
The Swiss comes onto the spring clay with a 17-4 match record and titles in Chennai and Rotterdam.
The 30-year-old successfully defended a title for the first time in January, winning Chennai for the second year in a row.
Spanish 16th seed Tommy Robredo crushed compatriot Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-1 in an early match played under the first clouds of the week.
Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4 7-6 (7-2) while Spanish 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut defeated German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-4).
Second seed Federer was set to face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.