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Kiefer, Kohlschreiber Lead German Charge; Simon Advances

Stuttgart, Germany

Philipp Kohlschreiber© Pressefoto BaumannPhilipp Kohlschreiber reached the Stuttgart quarter-finals in 2008.

German Nicolas Kiefer marked his first return in 12 years to the MercedesCup with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 3 seed Tomas Berdych in the first round of the ATP World Tour 250 clay-court tennis tournament in Stuttgart.

The 32 year old suffered back-to-back first-round exits at Stuttgart in 1996 and 1997, but recorded his first win on Tuesday as he saved six of seven break points – while converting four of five opportunities on Berdych’s serve – in the 78-minute match. Kiefer had lost to the No. 21-ranked Berdych in all four of their previous meetings. The Czech, who reached the Stuttgart semi-finals in 2006, played a key role in his country’s defeat of Argentina in the Davis Cup quarter-finals at the weekend.

The No. 40-ranked Kiefer is looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time this season, the start of which was delayed for the German by a sprained ankle suffered in Hopman Cup duty. He next will face wild card Simon Greul, who ousted Andreas Beck 7-6(4), 7-6(5) in one hour and 55 minutes in an all-German first-round encounter. The No. 87-ranked Greul reached the third round in Stuttgart in 2006 (l. to Acasuso).

German Philipp Petzschner failed to replicate his countryman’s upset win as he bowed out in his first-round match against top-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-4. Though Petzschner earned one more break point chance than Simon during the one hour, 14-minute match, he managed to convert just two of his eight opportunities while dropping serve four times.

World No. 7 Simon is making his third appearance in Stuttgart, with his best previous result a third round showing on his event debut in 2005 (l. to Zabaleta). The 24 year old won three ATP World Tour titles last season, including two on clay at Casablanca and Bucharest, but is looking for his first of 2009. His best clay performance this year came in Estoril, where he reached the quarter-finals (l. to Montanes).

Fifth-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber did not show any ill-effects from his heroics in Germany’s 2-3 loss to Spain in the Davis Cup quarter-finals as he eased past Argentine Diego Junqueira 6-3, 6-2. The World No. 26, who defeated both Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco in Marbella at the weekend, converted all four break point chances he created to secure the first-round win after 62 minutes.

The 25-year-old Kohlschreiber, a quarter-finalist (l. to del Potro) in Stuttgart last year, improved to a 29-13 match record on the season. His recent strong form has seen him post a fourth-round effort at Roland Garros (d. Djokovic, l. to Robredo), reach the semi-finals at Halle (l. to Haas) and take a set off eventual champion Roger Federer in the Wimbledon third round.

There was more reason for cheer for home tennis fans as former World No. 5 Rainer Schuettler and No. 45 Mischa Zverev opened their campaigns with victories.

Schuettler booked his place in the second round with a hard-fought 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Czech Ivo Minar. The 33 year old Schuettler, who came into Stuttgart with a 1-8 clay-court record in 2009, prevailed after two hours and 16 minutes in a match featuring 13 breaks of serve. The German is looking to reach the quarter-finals in Stuttgart for the third time and next will face fourth seed Victor Hanescu.

The 21-year-old Zverev, currently at a career high in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, needed 92 minutes to take care of Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-2, 6-4. The Hamburg resident has reached the quarter-finals at an ATP World Tour event four times this season.

Frenchman Jeremy Chardy marked his Stuttgart debut by upsetting eighth-seeded Argentine Jose Acasuso 6-2, 7-6(4). World No. 43 Chardy converted three of four break points and won 88 per cent of points behind his first serve to knock out the 2006 runner-up in 76 minutes.

The 22-year-old Chardy, who reached his maiden ATP World Tour final in Johannesburg (l. to Tsonga) at the start of the year, improved to a 22-17 mark on the season as he bounced back from the first-round exit he suffered at Wimbledon (l. to Roddick).

Another seed to fall victim in the first round was No. 7 Fabrice Santoro. World No. 67 Fabio Fognini of Italy rallied from a set down to defeat the Frenchman 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 in one hour and 50 minutes. The 36-year-old Santoro was returning to clay after reaching the semi-finals (l. to Querrey) last week at the grass-court tournament in Newport.

Lucky loser Alexandre Sidorenko, who gained entry to the main draw when No. 6 seed Albert Montanes withdrew with a left leg injury, made the most of his opportunity by defeating Spanish qualifier Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2. The Frenchman goes on to face another Spaniard, Oscar Hernandez, who accounted for Janko Tipsarevic 6-4, 6-4.

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