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Berdych Makes Confident Melbourne Start; Almagro Tested

Melbourne, Australia

Berdych© Getty ImagesTomas Berdych signs autographs after his straight-sets win Monday.

World No. 6 Tomas Berdych made a confident start at the Australian Open on Monday, as he defeated Michael Russell 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to move through to the second round.

Seeded fifth, Berdych converted six breaks of serve and won 18 of his 26 net points. He locked up the first-round encounter in two hours and 11 minutes.

“He's a really tough opponent, especially for the conditions today,” said Berdych. “I was able to get [a] rhythm to play for the three sets. Not [staying] on court that long [was] also a positive, especially to be able to save some energy from the beginning.”

Berdych finished inside the Top 10 of the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings for the third straight season in 2012 and led the Czech Republic to the Davis Cup title. He reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year.

Tenth seed Nicolas Almagro battled past qualifier Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-2. Almagro fired 34 aces and hit 62 winners to 29 unforced errors. He broke the American seven times to prevail in three hours and 10 minutes. Johnson was making his main draw debut in Melbourne.

Fifteenth seed Stanislas Wawrinka was untroubled in his opener, beating Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in 89 minutes. Wawrinka, who reached the quarter-finals in 2011 (l. to Federer), won 41 percent of his return points.

World No. 18 Kei Nishikori rallied for a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Victor Hanescu. A returning quarter-finalist, the 16th-seeded Nishikori took control of the match after losing the first set, beating the Romanian in two hours and 39 minutes.

Nishikori“I want to do well, of course,” Nishikori said. “It's going to be tough the next round too, so [I’m trying] to play just one match at a time. And if I can do well, that's good… I feel really comfortable playing here.”

Julien Benneteau became the first man through to the second round when he dismissed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 32 seed capitalised on five of his seven break point chances against the Bulgarian. Benneteau erased two break points in the final game to seal the victory in one hour and 46 minutes, notching his first win in three meetings with Dimitrov.

“I was prepared to have a much tougher match because I know Grigor can play very good,” said Benneteau. “The last time we played each other in Basel it was three tie-breaks. I am happy with this win.”

Xavier Malisse also advanced in early action, cruising past Pablo Andujar 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and 53 minutes. Malisse saved all four break points he faced and broke Andujar five times.

No. 24 seed Sam Querrey set an all-American second-round clash with Brian Baker after beating Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Baker had a tougher test, edging Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr., 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(0), 3-6, 6-2.

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