Halle, Germany: Roger Federer grabbed a break in each set to defeat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 6-4 and reach the second round of the Gerry Weber Open on Tuesday.
Playing his first match as the new second-ranked player following Rafael Nadal's return to the No. 1 spot with his victory at the French Open, Federer was forced to work hard against a plucky opponent before sealing the win.
Federer will have to wait until Wednesday to discover his second-round opponent after rain caused a delay to the end of the match between Noam Okun and Alejandro Falla.
The Swiss player, who will defend his Wimbledon title later this month, was happy to be back playing on grass again.
"I think any surface change has something nice about it, but grass obviously is the most special one because you are only one month on it, so every day you have the chance to play on this surface is a special day," he said. "I feel it is something you want to savor as long as you are on the surface."
Federer was made to wait for his Halle bow this year as earlier matches dragged on, meaning he was not on court until 6:45pm local time - almost three hours later than scheduled."That actually suited me just fine," he said. "I usually have two hours before game _ this time it was four.
"It is normal for us tennis players and we know how to kill the time." Mikhail Youzhny became the third seeded player to be knocked out of the tournament after losing to German wild card Nicolas Kiefer 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in first-round action. Kiefer fired down 19 aces on his record 13th appearance at Halle.
The 32-year-old Kiefer was on Monday handed a wild card for Wimbledon, and he said that had motivated him against the 14th-ranked Youzhny. "That was great news," Kiefer said. "Wimbledon is a highlight _ it's the best tournament in the world and I am really pleased to get a wild card."
Kiefer needed two hours and seven minutes to see off third-seeded Youzhny and was pleased with how his body held up. "I didn't play in the French Open because I had a bad feeling about my movement so I instead used the time to get into better shape, and today I feel good," he said. No. 7 Marcos Baghdatis and No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero were beaten by German opponents on Monday.
No. 2 Nikolay Davydenko defeated Simon Greul of Germany 7-6 (1), 6-0 and declared himself happy after his first competitive match since breaking his left wrist in March.
"After three months out, it was hard to come back," he said. "Training is nothing like matches, and I was so tired out there _ my legs were so heavy.
"But after winning the tiebreak, I was less nervous and just got better and better. I am slowly getting my self-confidence back and I still hope to get back to the highest level." The Russian, ranked 5th, admitted he had been advised not to play in Halle since his wrist was not fully healed, but he did not want to be on the sidelines any longer.
"I was not ready for Paris because I could still feel pain and it would have been hard to come back in a five-set match," Davydenko said."I felt my recovery was going so slow so I decided to take a risk and come to Halle. It was my decision. "I don't feel any pain anymore and, after training for four days, I feel my wrist is now holding."
Philipp Kohlschreiber struggled past Belgium's Ruben Bemelmanns, who stepped in as a lucky loser after a virus ruled No. 5 Radek Stepanek out of the tournament this morning. The current German No. 1 needed won 7-6 (2), 6-7 (10), 6-4. AP