Murray makes winning start in Barcelona
Andy Murray continued to apply polish to his claycourt tennis as the second seed reached the third round of the Barcelona Open with a comfortable defeat of Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday.
Murray, playing the tournament for only the third time, secured his second career win at the Real Club de Tenis in 78 minutes.
The world number four now stands 4-0 over Stakhovsky, a Ukrainian journeyman ranked 68th.
"I hit the ball really well," said Murray. "I felt good physically but a bit mentally tired. it wasn't from playing a lot last week (Monte Carlo). Sometimes you just wake up and don't always feel that great on the court.
"Bur I played better as the match went on. He's a tricky player, he gives you a lot of drop shots and comes to the net - a lot of variation. But I finished the match well. Hitting the ball well is very important."
Murray is working to reach the form which took him to a Roland Garros semifinal a year ago, with hopes of doing even better.
He lost a Monte Carlo quarterfinal last week to Tomas Berdych, who had to withdraw from this week's competition in Spain.
The Scot ended with 16 winners and a dozen unforced errors, breaking on three of his five chances. He next plays either Santiago Giraldo of Colombia of Dutchman Robin Haase, a Monte Carlo quarterfinalist.
Murray improved to 2-3 in Barcelona and becomes the eighth player in the top 10 to register 20 match wins on the season, now standing 20-5.
Murray needed 42 minutes to wrap up the opening set breaking Stakhovsky in the fourth game, In the second, the second seed found his range to take control and run out the victory on his first match point.
The 2010 champion Fernando Verdasco also won a second-round encounter after a bye, with the Spanish ninth seed defeating Belgian Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-1.
Verdasco didn't bother to defend his title in 2011 after a dispute with the organiser but is now back in the Spanish fold.
"I played well and found my comfort zone from the first game," said the winner, who broke four times. "Maybe he was a little tired.
"This is a special tournament for me. I'm back in Barcelona and I want to do my best."
In the first round, Portugal's Frederico Gil scored an upset as he took out 12th seed Marcel Granollers of Spain, 6-2, 6-2 while number 13 South African Kevin Anderson was untroubled by Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-2, 6-3.
Australian Bernard Tomic, seeded 15th, dominated fading Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 6-4 on to make a winning debut at the event.
Tomic, at 19 the youngest man in the field in the Catalan capital, spent 67 minutes in handing one-time prodigy Gulbis another ATP disappointment.
The two-time quarterfinalist Latvian who has faded to an 86th ranking after standing a career-best 21st just 14 months ago, went down on two breaks of serve.
Tomic, who won a round in Monte Carlo last week but lost his next match to Ukrainian talent Alexandr Dolgopolov, was pleased with a winning start in the hotbed of Spanish tennis.
"I played well from the first game," said the Australian. "I was able to play my game.
"I served well and got more comfortable on the clay," added the number 35, the youngest man in the field. "I'm moving better and feeling better. I'm playing well right now."
Six-time champion Rafael Nadal will attempt to pick up where he left off at the weekend after winning an eighth straight Monte Carlo title when he opens after a bye against compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a winner over Olivier Rochus of Belgium 6-3, 6-3.