Vienna: Juan Del Potro is optimistic about his chances to qualify for the year-end World Tour Finals next month as the top seed prepared on Tuesday to begin his autumn indoor campaign at the Austrian Open.
The Argentine stands provisional seventh in a season points chase which has three more weeks to run before the start of the eight-man event on November 5 in London.
He begins at the Stadehalle on Wednesday against German Daniel Brands, who won a battle of qualifiers over Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3.
Two minor seeds exited at the first hurdle, with Italian Paolo Lorenzi knocking out seventh seed Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4 despite 11 aces from the Frenchman.
Paire, who reached his first final in Belgrade last May, dropped into negative territory for the season, standing 23-24.
Number 70 Slovenian Grega Zemlja worked for two and a half hours to get past eighth seed Xavier Malisse, dfating the veteran Belgian 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6).
Matthew Ebden earned the second Australian victory in as many days as he beat Italy's Filippo Volandri 7-5, 0-6, 6-0
With three places in the London field still open, the likely injury absence of Rafael Nadal could mean that four more players have a chance to reach the field.
Del Potro wants to be one of them.
"I'm very exited about trying to qualify, I need to do well here and at my next event (Basle) in order to have a chance though," the Argentine said as he continued training at the tournament where he lost the final a year ago to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
"I have to play consistently this week, it would be great to win the title here for the first time. That would help my chances," said the 24-year-old, who is competing for the first time in a month after dealing with a left wrist injury.
"I followed my rehab programme in Buenos Aires and did it well," said the 2009 US Open winner who then missed most of the next season with a right wrist problem which required surgery. "I was working with both my doctor and my physio.
"Right now I'm feeling fit and healthy," said Del Potro, winner of two trophies in 2012, including indoors in Marseille. "I'm hoping for my first title here on my third try."
Del Potro trails Czech Tomas Berdych, provisional sixth in the race to London and heading Tsonga plus Vienna second seed Janko Tipsarevic.