David Ferrer wasted little time and even less energy as he began his Heineken Open title defence in imposing style yesterday.
Having ended his 2011 season knocking off Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the Tour Championships and then helping Spain secure the Davis Cup with a thrilling five-set victory over Juan Martin del Potro, it's hardly surprising Ferrer was happy to save his legs during a routine opening bow in Auckland.
The top seed and world No 5 demolished Czech Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-2 in just 61 minutes to set up a quarterfinal clash with Colombian Alejandro Falla.
"I feel good," Ferrer said. "I played consistent all match so I'm happy."
Rosol managed to keep the first set on serve until 3-3 but Ferrer had then seen enough to start breaking down an opponent ranked 69 places lower and the match was largely one way traffic from there. Ferrer will be back on court tonight in the main match of the evening session.
Fellow Spaniard and second seed Nicolas Almagro was also in fine touch as he dismantled Santiago Giraldo to book his quarterfinal spot. The world No 10 totally overpowered the Colombian in a battle between two of last year's semifinalists. Both players exited at that stage 12 months ago however Almagro looks to be in the sort of form and mood to progress at least one step further.
Standing in his way is quarterfinals regular Philipp Kohlschreiber, with the German scraping through with a three-set victory over young American Ryan Harrison.
Almagro has produced wildly fluctuating performances in six visits to Auckland. He said his sparkling form yesterday was partly down to having added last week's tournament in Chennai to his schedule, meaning he arrived with more match practice under his belt.
"I'm happy but [today] is another fight and I'll see what can I do," he said. "Philipp is a great player on this surface. He has a very nice backhand and he is serving very well too. I'll need to play my best tennis."
A clay court specialist, Almagro tends to earn most of his corn in South America and continental Europe. He's good enough on the dirt to push his ranking to the fringe of the top 10 but he appears to accept that going beyond that into the ranks of the super-elite may be beyond him.
"I don't know, if I know I would be the No 1," he said. "I need to improve a lot of my tennis. In 2011 I had a very good season with three titles and two finals. But I think this year will be a little bit difficult in South America because I need to defend many points. The only thing I can do is work a lot and play my best tennis every time I come to court."
His run to the semis last year helped to erase the stain of questionable effort in 2010, but Almagro has the game to have produced better results than his overall 6 win 5 loss mark in Auckland. "I want to win [here]. Last year when I lost against [David] Nalbandian I was the closest. I will try with all my power and we will see."
Impressive Frenchman Benoit Paire backed up his first round demolition of former world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero with a comeback three-set victory over fourth seed Juan Ignacio Chela. Paire dropped the first set 5-7 but then claimed the next two 6-2, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Olivier Rochus, who outlasted sixth seed Thomaz Bellucci in a 3hr 12min marathon. Bellucci survived three match points on serve to force a final-set tiebreaker, but Rochus eventually closed out the match 6-7 (6), 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Third seed Fernando Verdasco was still in action last night when this edition of the Herald went to print.By Steve Deane Email Steve