Matillia starts well in Barcelona title defence

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The Independent Online

Barcelona native Felix Mantilla started his title defence well today with a two-set win against Dutchman Sjeng Schalken on the opening day at the $1 million Seat-Godo Barcelona Open clay-court tournament.

The tournament, at the Royal Tennis Club of Barcelona, includes 25 of the world's top 35 players. Most of those absent are US players, whose aversion to the clay courts of Europe has become almost legendary.

Mantilla, who has not won a tournament since taking the Godo on beating Moroccan Karim Alami last year started out with a convincing 6-1, 6-3.

Still recovering from a recent back injury, he said his physical condition was improving daily.

"In the last two weeks I've been feeling very strong and if I continue this way my back won't be a problem," said Mantilla. "My serve is strong again."

Mantilla's next opponent is Ecuadorean Nicolas Lapentti, currently ranked 13th on the ATP tour.

Another favourite native son, Albert Costa, did not fare so well, losing to Armenian Sargis Sargsian 7-6 (2), 6-4.

"I've had a little allergy and a very runny nose and I just couldn't concentrate on the game," said a disappointed Costa. "I just didn't have the spark I needed today. My legs were a little slow and I wasn't playing my best - and he took advantage of it."

Among the top seeded players competing in Barcelona are Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Britain's Greg Rusedski, Chilean Marcelo Rios, Sweden's Magnus Norman and Frenchman Cedric Pioline who is fresh from a win at last week's Monte Carlo Open.

In other first-round play, Russian Marat Safin beat 12th seeded Argentine Mariano Zabaleta 6-4,6-4. The only U.S. player in the tournament, Vincent Spadea, who reached the third round in last year's tournament, fell to a younger and stronger Andreas Vinciguerra, of Sweden, 6-4, 6-2.

Argentine Franco Squillari lost in three sets to Romanian Andrei Pavel 3-6, 6-3, 3-6.

Results from the first day's play in the $1 million Seat-Godo Barcelona Open claycourt tournament:

Felix Mantilla (Sp) def. Sjen Schalken (Neth) 6-1, 6-3. Andreas Vinciguerra (Swe) def. Vince Spadea (US) 6-4, 6-2. Marat Safin (Rus) def. Mariano Zabaleta (Arg) 6-4, 6-4. Francisco Clavet (Sp) def. Alberto Martin (Sp) 7-6 (3), 6-3. Andrei Pavel (Rom) def. France Squillari (Arg) 3-6, 6-3, 3-6. Tommy Haas (Ger) def. Gaston Etlis (Arg) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Sargis Sargsian (Arm) def. Albert Costa (Sp) 7-6 (2), 6-4. Juan Antonio Marin (CR) def. Albert Portas (Sp) 7-6, 6-3. Salvador Navarro (Sp) def. Sebastien Gorsjean (Fr) 6-3, 6-4. Mariano Puerta (Arg) def. Julian Alonso (Sp) 7-5, 7-6 (3). Richard Krajicek (Neth) def. Mikael Tillstrom (Swe) 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4). Fernando Vicente (Sp) def. Hernan Gumy (Arg) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2. Marc Rosset (Swit) def. Bohdan Ulihrach (Cz Rep) 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.