Marcos Baghdatis thrashed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-1, 6-1 in his first match after a month’s layoff to reach the second round of the Malaysian Open Tuesday.
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The 24-year-old Cypriot said the match was actually harder than it looked.
”I had to stay focused and concentrate on the game as I have not played for four weeks,” the 2006 Australian Open finalist said. ”I’m happy with the way I responded to Kei’s challenge and even happier that I didn’t give him a chance to find a way into the match. I’m still finding my feet out there and to have won in straight sets is good for me.”
Baghdatis, who took part in a photo call at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park earlier Tuesday to help promote the tournament, joked that facing the birds helped him prepare for the match.
”I’m afraid of birds … maybe that experience made it easier to face Kei as I had lost all my (nerves),” he quipped.
He will meet Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo in the second round.
Also Tuesday, two qualifiers – Russia’s Igor Andreev and Canada’s Milos Raonic – won through to the second round with comprehensive victories. Andreev thrashed Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 6-4 while Raonic defeated Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.
Wednesday’s matches will see defending champion and second seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in action for the first time. The world No. 6 had a first round bye and will open his campaign against Andreev.
Also in action will be fourth seed and world No. 9 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, who faces Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Top seed and world No. 5 Robin Soderling of Sweden and third seed Tomas Berdych will play their second-round matches on Thursday.
Although only 250 ranking points are at stake for the winner, the players are desperate to earn as many as possible as the race to qualify for the World Tour Finals in London in November hots up.
Qualifying for the end-of-season tournament is based on points collected in Grand Slams, eight ATP 1000 and two of the best ATP 500 and ATP 250 tournaments throughout the year. The top eight players make the grade.
After Malaysia, the players will play in next week’s Shanghai Masters which offers 1,000 ranking points to the winner.