MONTE CARLO, April 22, 2008 (AFP)
Marat Safin's latest bid to reignite his colourful, rollercoaster career enjoyed a boost with a 6-3, 6-2 Monte Carlo Masters first round victory over Belgium's Xavier Malisse on Tuesday.
Safin, a former world number one and twice a Grand Slam title winner, has seen his world ranking slip to 93 in a year which had yielded just three wins on the tour before this week.
But Malisse, who played just seven events in 2007 as a wrist injury sent his ranking slumping to 251, proved the perfect opponent for the Russian in a one-sided encounter.
The 28-year-old Safin, a semi-finalist in 2004, broke in the sixth game of the first set to lead 4-2 and wrapped up the opener with his fifth ace.
He was quickly ahead 3-0 in the second before Malisse, with his left wrist heavily bandaged, rallied to pull a break back at 1-3.
Safin, with 20 winners confidently hit, raced through the last three games to take the match after 61 minutes to set up a second round encounter with fifth seed David Ferrer of Spain, last weekend's Valencia champion.
Also going through to the second round were Spanish 12th seed Tommy Robredo and Ivo Karlovic, the 15th seeded Croatian.
Robredo, a quarter-finalist in 2006, saw off Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 and now faces Sweden's Robin Soderling.
Karlovic clinched his first win in three attempts here when his French opponent Sebastian Grosjean, twice a semi-finalist, was forced to retire with a leg injury in the final set.
Karlovic will take another Frenchman, Gael Monfils, for a place in the last 16.
Later Tuesday, third seed Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, opens his 2008 claycourt campaign against Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic.
World number one Roger Federer, the runner-up to triple champion Rafael Nadal for the past two years, opens on Wednesday against either France's Gilles Simon or Spanish qualifier Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.
French Open winner Nadal, the second seed, faces Croatia's Mario Ancic, also on Wednesday.



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