BARCELONA: Marat Safin made a patchy return after an ankle injury which has dogged him this month, struggling in the first set but steadying in the second to reach the third round of the Barcelona Open yesterday.
The fourth-seeded Russian, who was playing for the first time since the Miami Masters last month, had to settle down before defeating left-handed Spanish qualifier Salvador Navarro 7-5, 6-2 on the clay surface.
Safin, the 2000 tournament winner, faced seven break points in the opening set at the Real Club de Tenis before finally taking the lead.
He then ripped to 4-0 in the second and finished with an ace for a match point chance and a back-hand winner to conclude.
Life was tough for another seed after an early exit.
Spanish journeyman David Sanchez pinned tournament number five Paradorn Srichaphan down on baseline, then varied the rhythm effectively with the off-pace drop shot to keep the top Thai on his heels in a 6-0, 6-2 rout.
An additional four Spaniards reached the second round, led by 12th seed Tommy Robredo, who stopped Frenchman Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-2.
Galo Blanco upset 15th seed Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), while 1999 holder Felix Mantilla defeated Argentine Mariano Puerta 7-6 (10-8), 6-3.
Teenaged Rafael Nadal, who stunned Albert Costa last week in Monte Carlo, had some luck as he advanced.
Opponent Juan Marin of Costa Rica banged his knee with a racket, causing an injury and forcing a retirement while trailing the Spaniard 6-0.
Argentina's 13th seed Guillermo Coria, finalist at the weekend in Monte Carlos against Juan Carlos Ferrero, shook off that loss as he defeated Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2.
Roddick routed wild card and fellow American Jeff Morrison, 6-3, 6-1, as he took the first step toward winning the title for a third straight year.
Roddick, who lost only nine points in nine service games, won the final six games.
“I felt like I was controlling my serve like I wanted to,” Roddick said. “He didn’t have many chances on my serve tonight. I felt like I was in control of the match instead of the other wayaround. I played to the best of my ability tonight.”
Third seed James Blake of the US also advanced, beating German Alexander Waske, 6-4, 6-4. – Agencies