Auckland - Mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils battled into the second round of the Heineken Open in Auckland on Tuesday, displaying flashes of brilliance as he came from behind to keep his injury comeback on track.
The former world number seven beat German Benjamin Becker 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-4 in the New Zealand tournament, a warm-up for the Australian Open Grand Slam later this month.
While Monfils conceded his performance was patchy, he showed no signs of discomfort from the troublesome knee that marred much of his 2012 season.
“It was tough,” he said. “I tried to do my best but sometimes I'm on and off, but it's my first game and I try to do my best.”
Monfils' serve proved a potent weapon in an error-strewn match, as he blasted down 19 aces, compared to just five from Becker, whose challenge faded after he won a first set tie-breaker.
Elsewhere, Australian qualifier Greg Jones made a mockery of his 373 world ranking, notched his first win in five ATP matches to dispose of Austrian sixth seed Jurgen Melzer in straight sets.
Jones downed world number 29 Melzer 7-6 (9/7), 6-2, causing the Austrian to throw his racquet to the court in frustration as the Australian saved triple break point in the fifth game of the first set.
“It's a pretty good feeling,” the 23-year-old Sydneysider said. “I trained really hard during the off-season.
“Physically, I'm just feeling much better on the court,” he added, revealing he had eased back on his favourite meal of burgers and chips.
In other first round matches, Colombian Santiago Giraldo thrashed Go Soeda of Japan 6-1, 6-0, Slovak Lukas Lacko downed Italy's Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3 and Holland's Igor Sijsling ground out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over compatriot Robin Haase.
Canadian Jesse Levine made short work of New Zealand wild card Daniel King-Turner, strolling to a 6-2, 6-2 win, while Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan beat France's Benoit Paire 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
Defending champion and top seed David Ferrer of Spain will play for the first time on Wednesday after receiving a bye into the second round, along with Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas, seeded two and three respectively, and American fourth seed Sam Querrey. - AFP