Long lay-off proves no problem for Kuerten

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Gustavo Kuerten returned to action yesterday for the first time since capturing his third French Open title in June and eased into the third round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

The top-seeded Brazilian swept past Andrew Ilie of Australia 6-1, 6-2 to advance in the clay-court tournament he won in 1998. Like all seeded players, Kuerten had a first-round bye.

In the opening round three veterans won. Cedric Pioline of France, who turned 32 last month, beat the local favourite Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 6-3. The Frenchman, a quarter-finalist in Stuttgart in 1991, will now play Spain's Albert Costa for a place in the last 16.

Sergi Bruguera, twice a French Open champion and looking for his first ATP title since 1994, beat the Norwegian qualifier Jan Frode Andersen 6-4, 6-1. The 30 year old was a semi-finalist in Stuttgart in 1989 and will play Sweden's Andreas Vinciguerra.

Switzerland's Marc Rosset cruised past the German wild card Jakob Herm-Zahlava 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Argentina's Gaston Gaudio.

At the Energis Open in Amsterdam Magnus Gustafsson opened the defence of his title yesterday with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory over John van Lottum while the clay court specialist Alex Corretja defeated Fernando Meligeni 7-5, 6-4

The top seed, Kim Clijsters, beat Ludmila Cervanova 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Sanex Trophy in Knokke-Heist, Belgium yesterday.