Injured Voltchkov struggles to extend Nalbandian

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The Independent Online

David Nalbandian eased through his first match in SW19 since last year's men's final by overcoming Vladimir Voltchkov surprisingly easily in straight sets yesterday.

The 21-year-old Argentinian had probably been expecting a sterner examination of his credentials from Voltchkov, a former junior Wimbledon winner and senior semi-finalist. But he secured what proved to be a routine win, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, to progress to a second-round meeting with Brazil's Andre Sa, who advanced past Argentina's Mariano Puerta, who retired hurt.

Nalbandian remains on course to meet Tim Henman in the fourth round. Though the manner of their respective wins yesterday - easy and wobbly respectively - suggests that Nalbandian would be the favourite if they met, Voltchkov was struggling with injuries. He had a problem with his ankle and his wrist and at one stage took a time-out to have his left wrist strapped.

Even the imposing presence of Voltchkov's three-man entourage could do nothing to unnerve Nalbandian. He emerged from the match relaxed and confident. "I'm happy to get through," he said. "Moving past the first round is always a relief."

One of the latter's compatriots, Guillermo Coria, had a more unsettling afternoon. The No 7 seed became the highest seed after Lleyton Hewitt to be eliminated, although he said he was not surprised at losing in straight sets to Belgium's Olivier Rochus.

"I knew it could happen since I only prepared for three days after Roland Garros," said Coria, who lost in the Paris semi-final to Martin Verkerk, having previously beaten Andre Agassi in some style. "I relaxed and I've been in Argentina, so I cannot complain," he said. "However, I am angry for having lost in the first round. I had chances to win the second set, but he played too good. I'm just going to go to Argentina now to train hard for the next tournament. There's still another Grand Slam to come."

Xavier Malisse was another casualty among the men's seeds. The Belgian, who reached the semi-final last year before losing to Nalbandian, lost yesterday in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to a French qualifier, Cyril Saulnier.

Saulnier arrived in London having won just one previous Grand Slam match in his career, but outplayed the No 14 seed, who appeared short on confidence, to progress to a second-round meeting with Australia's Mark Philippoussis.

Philippoussis recovered from the loss of the second set to beat Argentina's Mariano Zabaleta in four sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Australian remains one of the most dangerous floaters in the bottom half - Henman's half - of the draw.

Another seed to fall yesterday was the No 28, Wayne Ferreira, of South Africa, who lost in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to Karol Kucera, of Slovakia.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the newly crowned French Open champion and No 3 seed here, made a smooth transition from clay to grass. Clearly not distracted by the upheaval at his beloved Real Madrid, he eased past France's Jean-Rene Lisnard, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

Ferrero's vanquished Roland Garros runner-up, Martin Verkerk, had a tougher time yesterday. The Dutchman, seeded No 21 here on the back of his French Open heroics, was beaten in only his second match on grass by Sweden's Robin Soderling, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.

Verkerk's first match on the fast surface had been no better. Last week he lost to Germany's Lars Burgsmüller on his first outing at the Ordina Open in Den Bosch.