Rome: Three out of four men's seeds booked second-round spots at the Rome Masters on Monday as Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled the plug on his participation due to a training injury.
The sudden adductor problem with less than a fortnight left before the French Open is not good news for the seventh seed.
On court there were wins for Canadian tenth seed Milos Raonic, and 11th seed Richard Gasquet as second seed Andy Murray landed in Rome after splitting from coach Amelie Mauresmo a day after he lost the Madrid final to Novak Djokovic.
Thomas Bellucci sent 14th seed Gael Monfils to a 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) opening loss, with Monfils calling for the trainer after less than half an hour on court.
Tsonga said he would work to be fit for the start of Roland Garros.
"I was sick when I left Madrid for two days, and I came here and I tried to play a little bit to see how it goes," Tsonga said.
"This morning I just stretched a little bit my adductor."
Tsonga lost in the Madrid third round to Raonic and played a Monte Carlo semi-final against compatriot Monfils last month.
"This is not something good to be a little bit injured before Roland Garros. I hope I will have the chance to recover quick enough to prepare as good as possible."
Raonic defeated Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to line up a massive challenge against Nick Kyrgios in the next round.
Kyrgios hammered Italian wild card Salvatore Caruso 6-1, 6-2 after reaching the semi-finals in Estoril and the Madrid quarter-finals in his last two clay events.
"Clay is probably my least preferred surface, to be honest. But I actually don't play too bad on it. I think it suits my game quite well," the Australian said.
"It gives me time to set up and really go for my shots and then execute. If you've got a good serve you can serve for any surface."
Kyrgios said he had not spoken with slumping Bernard Tomic, whose habit of giving away matches and not trying his best is becoming a major cross to bear for the Aussie.
"I haven't really been hanging out with Bernard or speak to him too much," Kyrgios said. "I'm sure something is not right."
Heavy hitters Kyrgios and Raonic stand level at 2-2 in their series, with the Australian winning the last two at Wimbledon last summer and Miami in March.
France's Gasquet advanced past compatriot Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-0.
Austrian 13th seed Dominic Thiem overcame Alexander Dolgopolov 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 while Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez spoiled the day for Italian number one Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-6 (7-2).
Qualifier Ernests Gulbis beat Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3, German teenager Alexander Zverev put out fading Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-1, 6-4.
Murray meanwhile had broken ground as the first major ATP player to work with a female coach, which he did for almost two years with Mauresmo.
"I’ve learned a lot from Amélie over the past two years. She’s been a calming influence in the team and we’ll miss having her around," Murray said in a statement.
"I’ll take some time to consider the next steps and how we progress from here."
The relationship was interrupted last year as the Frenchwoman took time away to have a child, joining Murray by becoming a new parent last August.
Since then, her appearances in the team camp have been limited.
In women's play, 1999 champion Venus Williams, the 12th seed, started with a defeat of Coco Vandeweghe, 6-4, 6-3 as Russian Darya Kasatkina put out Czech 16th seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4.
"That was my first time playing against Coco. I hit with her a little bit at Fed Cup but I was not really sure what to expect." William said.
"I imagine that on the clay I have a little bit more advantage, just having played more matches on clay. I think that helped a lot."
Roland Garros finalist Lucie Safarova, the tenth seed, started with a defeat of veteran Italian wild card Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-2.
Published Date: May 10, 2016 11:03 am | Updated Date: May 10, 2016 11:08 am