| Guillermo Canas in action against Dick Norman in Chennai on Tuesday. (PTI)
Chennai: Top seed Guillermo Canas of Argentina survived a scare in his first match of the season against towering Dick Norman of Belgium in the Tata Open tennis championships Tuesday.
Defending champion Canas, World No. 15, was blasted out in the first set by the big-serving six-foot-eight Norman but came up with a flurry of winning passes from the baseline to finally win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in more than two hours.
“It’s always tough in the first match of the year,” Canas said. “Norman played really well in the first set, he served big and hit the ball hard. I’m happy to come back into the game the way I did and enter the second round.”
Fifth seed Andrei Pavel of Romania was bundled out 3-6, 3-6 by qualifier Tomas Behrend of Germany in quick time at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium.
Pavel, World No. 26 and coming off a season in which he made the quarter finals of the French Open, failed to get into any sort of rhythm against the German.
Norman, who broke into the top 100 for the first time this year, forced Canas onto the back foot early in the first set, breaking his serve in the fifth game with some acrobatic volleys at the net before closing it out with a huge serve.
But Canas, who had beaten a series of top players en route to his maiden Masters series title at Toronto last year, picked up the tempo in the second and third sets to set up a second-round clash with experienced Czech Jiri Vanek.
“Norman is very tall and he used his height very well,” Canas said. “I’m sure he’s as much of a problem to a lot of other players as he was to me. But a tennis match is not over until you win two sets. Winning just one is not enough.”
Eighth seed Albert Montanes of Spain also had to work hard for his 7-6, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Michael Llodra.
Meanwhile, Australian Mark Philippoussis, returning from a career-threatening knee injury, relied on his trademark big serves to advance to the second round.
Philippoussis did not look on top of his game but brushed aside German qualifier Michael Kohlman 7-6, 6-3 in his first match since he pulled out of the US Open in August.
“It feels great to be back on the court,” Philippoussis said. “There were times when I considered quitting last year, but I still love the game.”
Second-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand had little trouble beating Czech Jan Vacek 7-5, 6-2.
Srichaphan, World No. 16, will next play Dutchman John Van Lottum, who beat Frenchman Olivier Patience 6-2, 7-6.
In another match, Karol Kucera of Slovakia survived a tough fight before overcoming a talented American Justin Gimelstob 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
Capitalising on Kucera’s unforced errors, Gimelstob took the first set without much ado. The American, who holds edge in the head-to-head, served well and sent down winners to break the better ranked Kucera in the fourth game. The rival players held on to their serves then on and Gimelstob wrapped up the set.
Kucera, World No. 84, however, stood upto the challenge bouncing back in the second set. Yet, both were unable to break, but in the tie-break, the experience of Kucera got him through.
In the third set, Kucera kept up the momentum to clinch the match. In another match, Cecil Mamiit of the US upset seventh seed Lars Bugsmuller of Germany 6-0, 6-3.