Halle, Germany: Defending champion Lleyton Hewitt is hoping a missed football kick will be a good omen as he prepares to launch his campaign at Halle`s ATP tennis tournament on Wednesday.
Hewitt had been due to face French Open finalist Roger Federer on Wednesday in their first-round match -- a repeat of last year`s final -- but the Swiss star`s withdrawal on Monday means Hewitt now faces Argentina`s Leonardo Mayer.
The Australian appeared on stage here on Tuesday to take part in a challenge to kick a football through a hole and although his shot missed, Hewitt was happy.
"I missed a penalty here last year as well, so I`ll take that as a good omen for this year`s tournament," joked the 30-year-old former world number one.
Having won his doubles match on Monday, Hewitt is now hoping a win over lucky-loser Mayer in the singles will help the 2002 Wimbledon champion launch a successful grass-court campaign.
Second seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic had to save three match points as he recovered to beat Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 5-7, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 in the first round.
"I always believed in the victory. Today my experience decided the match," said Berdych, who lost in the first round at the French Open two weeks ago.
Berdych now faces Czech qualifier Jan Hernych in the second round.
Third seed Gael Monfils of France only came on court at just after 9pm local time, but he wasted no time for a 6-4, 6-3 win over compatriot Florent Serra in just 56 minutes.
He was solid throughout and plays Croatia`s Ivan Dodig in the second round on Thursday.
"It was a good match, I was solid and I am happy to have made a good start on grass," said Monfils, who hit 14 aces, compared to Serra`s two.
"It was a tough as he (Serra) came through the qualifiers and it is always hard playing against another Frenchman."
Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tommy Haas of Germany bowed out in the first round when he was beaten in three sets by Italian Andreas Seppi, who held on for a 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 victory.
"I didn`t play too badly, I am pretty proud of myself and pleased that I kept fighting," said Haas, who reached the last four at Wimbledon in 2009 but has been bedevilled by injuries.
"Maybe I was forcing it too much, but in the end it was one poor service game that made me lose.
"In comparison to my elbow-surgery, the hip-operation is much tougher to come back from.
"Look at Hewitt, he had hip-surgery, but he is running round like a rabbit."
Federer`s withdrawal has opened up Hewitt`s side of the draw and Ukrainian seventh-seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, as well as local favourites Philipp Kohlschreiber and sixth-seed Florian Mayer potentially lie in wait.
Mayer will face last year`s Wimbledon quarter-finalist Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan in the second round after he beat German-Jamaican Dustin Brown, who fired down an incredible 20 aces.
Mayer sealed a 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 6-3 win and will be joined in the second round by fellow seeds Milos Raonic of Canada and Serbia`s Viktor Troicki.
Eighth-seed Raonic saw off Spain`s Daniel Gimeno-Traver 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, while Troicki beat German wildcard Mischa Zverev in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
Davis Cup winner Troicki faces Igor Andreev of Russia in the next round, while Raonic - who has been on the rise this season and won his first title in San Jose - takes on Germany`s Tobias Kamke.