The two Scots competing in Indian Wells enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the Californian desert last night. While Elena Baltacha was brushed aside by Alicia Molik, losing 6-0, 6-2, Andy Murray won his first Masters Series match of the year with something to spare, beating Italy's Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4.
Murray, making his first appearance since losing to Janko Tipsarevic in Dubai last month, was some way below his best but was still too good for Seppi, the world No 46. Although Murray was not striking the ball particularly well, especially on his backhand, his speed around the court proved decisive.
The Scot, who was runner-up last year and enjoys the fast courts and warm conditions, made the perfect start, winning the opening point with an exquisite drop shot and breaking serve immediately. However, it proved to be a patchy first set, with five breaks of serve. The second was more routine, Murray breaking serve in the seventh game. The world No 4 now faces Michael Russell or Igor Andreev, who were playing later in the day.
"I did what I needed to do," Murray said afterwards. "I feel fit. I've had a few weeks off. We got here over a week ago, so I've had seven or eight days to get ready and get used to the conditions. It was pretty warm and breezy today, so the conditions were tough."
Baltacha's result was a disappointment, given that she had enjoyed the finest victory of her career in the previous round by beating Li Na, the world No 10, in a marathon match lasting nearly three hours.
Molik, the world No 138, immediately took command against the British No 1. The Australian needed less than an hour to complete her victory and had threatened to complete a whitewash until Baltacha won her first game midway through the second set.
Rafael Nadal made a promising return when he beat Germany's Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 6-4. The Spaniard, who has not played since his defeat to Murray in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, has been recovering from a knee injury.
"It was a good start in the conditions for me and I'm very happy," Nadal said. "I feel really well with the forehand, and that's very important to my game. Maybe I can play better in better conditions with the backhand."
Novak Djokovic, the champion in 2008, made a less impressive start as he struggled to beat Mardy Fish 6-1, 0-6, 6-2. Having won the first set comfortably, the Serbian then lost seven games in succession to the man he had beaten in the final two years ago. Although he recovered to take the third set, his 37 unforced errors and nine double faults will be a concern.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, the women's top seed, went out to Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro. The Russian made 69 unforced errors and had seven double-faults in losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 after nearly two hours. It continued her frustrating run: she has not gone beyond the fourth round in four events this year.Reuse content