Andy Murray started his clay-court season in style by beating Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-3 to reach the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.
The third-seeded Briton had to rally from two sets down before getting the better of the Serb in last year's French Open fourth round, but this victory was much more comfortable.
“Normally when I come here I usually find I need a few matches to get adjusted,” said Murray, who lost to seven-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in last year's semifinals. “But I played very well, it was a very good first match.”
Murray had spent a few days practicing on clay in Florida before heading to the Mediterranean.
“The sooner I can get on this surface for me the better,” Murray said. “It was good that I stayed in the States and actually got sort of four or five days on the clay there before coming (here). I was sliding pretty well on the court. Normally that's the thing that takes time to get used to.
“I wasn't getting that many free points with the serve. I was using it more to set the way I was playing the points up rather than going for free points, which sometimes on this court is important.”
Murray didn't face a single break point in improving to 6-0 against Troicki.
He led 4-0 in the opening set after 17 minutes and closed it out by sending a forehand down the line. The Briton broke twice in the second set, sealing victory when Troicki's backhand went wide.
Murray is being helped with his clay game by coach Ivan Lendl, who won three French Opens in eight grand slam titles plus two Monte Carlo Masters among his 94 career victories.
“He only arrived this morning so he's getting no credit for today,” Murray joked. “But he'll help me (over) the next five, six weeks.”
Murray next plays either Austria's Jurgen Melzer or Julien Benneteau of France.
Fourth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also reached the third round, saving all six breakpoints in a 6-2, 6-4 win against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Tsonga, who was serenaded with a brief rendition of ‘Happy Birthday' from the crowd to celebrate turning 27, served five aces and broke three times.
“I had some worrying moments because I was almost broken several times,” said Tsonga, who regularly used the drop shot to get out of trouble. “But I played well on the important points.”
The Frenchman next plays 13th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain, who rallied from a set down for the second straight match in winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 against Ivan Dodig of Croatia.
Kei Nishikori of Japan, the No. 12 seed, advanced to the second round after a 6-2, 7-5 win against Spain's Albert Ramos, who lost in the Grand Hassan II final last Sunday to Spanish countryman Pablo Andujar.
Andujar also progressed to the second round, but had to rally from a set down to get past Argentina's Federico Delbonis 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Meanwhile, No. 11 Juan Monaco of Argentina limped out of his match against Dutchman Robin Haase with the score at 7-5, 0-6, 2-3.
Monaco turned his right ankle retrieving a shot from the baseline and lay for several minutes on the ground, with Haase even making a pillow for him with a towel. After some massage on his ankle, Monaco finished the fifth game but then abandoned the match.
Italian veteran Andreas Seppi's reward for a 6-3, 6-1 win against Victor Hanescu is to play top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the second round on Wednesday, when Nadal is also in action against Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen.
Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan reached the second round after beating 14th-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Also in the first round, Italy's Fabio Fognini beat Michael Llodra of France 7-5, 6-3, Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci downed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 6-4 and Filippo Volandri won 7-5, 6-3 against Alessandro Giannessi in an all-Italian match.