Tokyo: Second-seeded Tomas Berdych defeated Benoit Paire of France 6-1, 7-6 (6) in a first-round match in hot and humid conditions at the Japan Open on Monday.
Berdych used a powerful serve and strong play from the baseline to win in 1 hour, 44 minutes under a blazing sun at Ariake Colosseum.
The Czech player raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, breaking Paire in the second and fourth games. Paire finally held serve to make it 5-1, but Berdych closed out the set in the next game on serve at love.
"I thought it might be a touch match," Berdych said. "I was actually surprised at how the first set went. He made me work harder in the second set."
The second set was on serve until the fifth game, when Berdych broke Paire to go up 3-2. It seemed Berdych would roll to the win, but in the 10th game Paire battled back, ripping a backhand winner to level at 5-5.
Both players then held serve to send it to a tiebreaker, where Berdych prevailed 8-6 after saving a set point when he was 6-5 down.
"I should have finished it when I was serving at 5-4 in the second set," Berdych stated. "But then I lost my serve and was even down set point in the tiebreak."
Paire, ranked 52nd, made some nice passing shots in the second set, but was ultimately hampered by a high number of unforced errors in the loss.
In earlier action, Lukas Kacko of Slovakia had a 6-0, 6-2 win over Alberto Ramos of Spain.
Berdych has one title this season, having captured the indoor event at Montpellier, France, in February. He beat then No. 1-ranked Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open last month before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray in the semis.
Top-seeded Murray, the defending Japan Open champion, will take on Gael Monfils of France in a first-round match either on Tuesday or Wednesday.