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Defending Champion Almagro Rebounds; Nalbandian Upset

Acapulco, Mexico

Gael Monfils Alfredo EstrellaGael Monfils in Acapulco

Defending champion Nicolas Almagro of Spain made a solid start at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, defeating Mexican wild card and birthday boy Santiago Gonzalez 6-4, 6-2 in 63 minutes on Tuesday in Acapulco.

Almagro, the No. 4 seed this week at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament, rebounded from last week’s first-round upset as he capitalised on three of his eight break point chances and won 80 per cent of his service points against the 231st-ranked Gonzalez.

World No. 21 Almagro led the ATP World Tour in clay court match wins last season, compiling a 30-8 record on the surface with titles at Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco. He has failed to match the same level of success this year, however, falling in the quarter-finals at Costa do Sauipe (l. to Gil) and the first round at Buenos Aires (l. to Hernandez).

In an all-French opener, No. 2 seed Gael Monfils (pictured) put together an excellent serving performance - firing 17 aces and winning 31 of his 32 first serve points - to beat Oliver Patience 7-6(4), 6-4.

"It is never easy to play a countryman," Monfils said. "I didn't have much time to adapt to the climate and the surface but I'm sure tomorrow I will play better. I felt a good connection with the crowd here in Acapulco. I think they like to see a show and I love that. It was great to play in front of them today."

The 22-year-old Monfils broke into the Top 10 of the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, having gotten off to a strong start in the ATP World Tour season. He reached the semi-finals at Doha and Rotterdam, and in between reached the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Monfils said about his second-round opponent Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil: "Bellucci is a good player. I watched him playing Rafa last year in Roland Garros. He is coming from a final at Costa do Sauipe which means he had been playing well."

Austrian qualifier Daniel Koellerer stunned top-seeded Argentine and 2008 finalist David Nalbandian 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes to earn his first win on the ATP World Tour since last July at Kitzbuhel. The 116th-ranked Koellerer secured the only break of the serve in the decisive set, while denying World No. 12 Nalbandian his three chances.

He goes on to face Spaniard Albert Montanes, who saved seven of eight break point chances faced on serve to defeat Brazilian Marcos Daniel 6-4, 7-5. Martin is making his seventh event appearance, and advances to the second round for the fourth time.

Third seed Tommy Robredo extended his winning streak to 11 straight matches after prevailing in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 test against fellow Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. World No. 15 Robredo won consecutive titles the past two weeks at Costa do Sauipe and Buenos Aires, and leads the circuit with a 13-1 record on clay this season. He next confronts American Kevin Kim, who advanced when Buenos Aires finalist Juan Monaco retired with a left leg injury midway through the second set.

Two-time champion Carlos Moya, the No. 8 seed, made his way in the second round with a 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-2 win over fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar. Former World No. 1 Moya has never lost in the first round in his nine Acapulco appearances, and improves to a 23-6 event record. He won the title in 2002 (d. Meligeni) and ’04 (d. Verdasco), and was runner-up in 2007 (l. to Chela).

Seventh-seeded Spaniard Marcel Granollers, a quarter-finalist last year on his Acapulco debut (l. to Acasuso), advanced to the second round with a 7-6(3), 7-5 win over Italian Fabio Fognini. Meanwhile, fifth seed Jose Acasuso of Argentina continued his recent success by dismissing Brian Dabul 6-3, 7-5. Acasuso has advanced to the semi-finals or better in each stop of the Latin America clay court swing this season.


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