Valencia: Fernando Verdasco made a good start in his latest bid to secure a spot at the World Tour finals with a 6-4, 6-1 first-round victory over American qualifier Michael Russell at the Valencia Open on Monday.
Spaniard Verdasco, the world number seven and winner in Valencia in 2004, looked well on course to qualify for the Nov. 21-28 season-ending ATP Tour finals in London when he reached the quarter-finals of the US Open in September.
The Madrid native went on to lose his opening matches at the events in Bangkok and Beijing and the Shanghai Masters but still has the Valencia tournament and the Paris Masters next week to try to secure a finals berth for a second straight year.
Verdasco, 26, broke 85th-ranked Russell`s serve five times and saved two of the three break points he faced on the indoor hard court. He will face Gilles Simon in the last 16 after the Frenchman beat Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine 6-3, 6-3.
"I have been training in Madrid the past 2-1/2 weeks trying to recharge the batteries in every sense and I know I have to perform well these next two weeks to make it to London," Verdasco told a news conference.
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling have qualified for the finals and David Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny, both playing in Valencia, are also in with a good chance of clinching one of the three remaining berths.
Murray and Soderling are competing in Valencia, where Scottish world number four Murray is the defending champion and top seed. Murray gets his title defence under way on Tuesday against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, when second seed Soderling meets Albert Montanes, another Spaniard.