Chennai, Dec 31 (UNI) Reigning champion Xavier Malisse of Belgium started his title defence on a winning note, defeating Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in straight sets in the first round match of the Chennai Open ATP World Tour tennis tournament here this evening.
In a 75-minute clash, in which both the unseeded players slugged it out from the baseline, Malisse, playing for the first time after a wrist injury put him out of action for nearly six months, showed no signs of rustiness, as he packed off his doubles partner 6-4, 6-3 without much ado.
''It's nice to start the new season on a winning note. This win is very important as it comes after a very long time'', Malisse later said.
In another first round match, sixth seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria defeated Paul Capdeville of Chile 6-2, 6-4 to enter the next round.
But for the tag of the defending champion for the Belgian, there was nothing much to separate the two (Malisse ranked 112 and Miller five placings below at 117), as Malisse, despite struggling with the first serves, excelled in ground strokes to catch his rival on the wrong foot.
The start was not good for the big serving Muller, who dropped serve in the very first game after starting with a booming serve that clocked 215 kmph. He was undone by the excellent court craft of the reigning champion and bowed out without any fight.
Except for saving three break points in the fifth game of the opening set and reeling of aces time and again, there was nothing much to rave about in terms of Miller's performance, as Malisse appeared a better player today.
Numerous unforced errors proved to be the undoing of Miller, as he twice dropped serve in the second set. First, he lost serve in the third game and then in the ninth when he sank an easy forehand in the net to hand out the match to his rival.
Earlier in the final round of qualifying matches, Alexandre Kudryavtsev (Russia), Lovro Zovko (Croatia), Ram Rajeev (US) and Peya Alexander (Austria) made it to the main draw.