London: Reigning champion Sam Querrey was back in the groove at Queen`s as the American began his defence of the grass-court title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Japan`s Kei Nishikori.
Querrey was the surprise winner of Queen`s last year after beating Mardy Fish in an all-American final and the big-serving 13th seed marked his return to the annual Wimbledon warm-up event with a convincing first round victory.
Nishikori is regarded as one of the rising stars of the ATP Tour after reaching a career high ranking of 46 last month.
But the 21-year-old from Shimane was unable to cause an upset on the lush lawns of west London as Querrey advanced to a second round meeting with Germany`s Rainer Schuettler, a 6-1, 6-1 winner against American qualifier Bobby Reynolds.
"I thought I served well and moved well for my first match of the grass season," Querrey said. "It`s good to come here as defending champion. You feel a bit of extra pressure but it`s a nice feeling."
Querrey`s thudding serves and booming ground-strokes make the 23-year-old a daunting prospect on grass and he was quickly into his stride as he broke Nishikori in the second game of the match.
Nishikori wasted a golden opportunity to hit straight back as Querrey saved five break points to hold serve in the next game.
That proved decisive as Querrey easily served out the set. Nishikori was constantly under pressure and had to save three break points early in the second set.
That only postponed the inevitable and Querrey broke for a 5-4 lead before finishing off the match in emphatic fashion.
Meanwhile, Spain`s Feliciano Lopez defeated Dmitry Tursunov 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to set up a second round clash with four-time champion Andy Roddick.
Lopez shocked world number one Rafael Nadal during an impressive run to the semi-finals here last year and the Spaniard was too strong for Tursunov as he won a tight first set tie-break before running away with the second set.
Andy Murray looks set to take part in the event after practicing for over two hours at the club as the world number four tests out the ankle ligament injury he suffered at the French Open.
British number one Murray, one of the eight top seeds given a bye into the second round, is keen to get time on grass ahead of Wimbledon and said: "It`s definitely better than it was originally. It was a bit sore when it happened and playing matches on it didn`t necessarily help too much but it should be okay.
"I really enjoy it here. I played well here in the past and it`s the perfect preparation for Wimbledon."
Nadal, the top seed at Queen`s, was also due on the club`s practice courts on Monday just 24 hours after beating Roger Federer in the French Open final in Paris to seal his record-equalling sixth triumph at Roland Garros.
Wimbledon marathon man Nicolas Mahut sprinted into the second round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over British wildcard Oliver Golding.
Former Queen`s runner-up Mahut lost the longest match in tennis history against America`s John Isner at Wimbledon last year in an epic encounter which lasted 11 hours and spread over three days before finishing 70-68 in the final set.
But Mahut, playing in London for the first time since then, didn`t hang around this time as the Frenchman easily dismissed 17-year-old Golding to set up a clash against seventh seed Fernando Verdasco.
French 10th seed Michael Llodra cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win against Jaroslav Pospisil.
Thomaz Bellucci, the Brazilian 11th seed, fought back to beat Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-2.
Germany`s Michael Berrer beat American wildcard Ryan Harrison 7-6 (9/7), 2-6, 7-5 to earn a meeting with French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
French qualifier Arnaud Clement will play eighth seed Marin Cilic after beating compatriot Benoit Paire 7-5, 6-3.