CHENNAI, India -- World No. 2 Rafael Nadal made a losing start to his new season on Monday when he
and his partner Bartolome Salva-Vidal were defeated in their
opening doubles match at the Chennai Open.
The French Open champion dropped serve once in each set as
the 2007 finalists went down 6-4, 6-4 against the first-time
pairing of Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, the singles second seed,
and Marc Gicquel of France.
Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, was elated.
"It was tough but we didn't lose serve all match so I'm
happy with our performance," he told reporters.
Defending champion Belgian Xavier Malisse returned after an
injury-marred 2007 to ease to a 6-4, 6-3 win over Gilles Muller
of Luxembourg. Malisse upset top seed Nadal in the singles
semifinals last year.
The 27-year-old Belgian grabbed two early titles in 2007, in
Chennai and Delray Beach, before a wrist injury sidelined him
for six months and he dropped out of the top 100.
On Monday he showed his class against the error-prone Muller
in the first-round clash between unseeded rivals lasting just
under two hours.
Malisse broke the big-serving Muller's serve in the opening
game before serving out the first set in 35 minutes.
He again snatched an early break in the second set to lead
4-2 and eventually sealed the match when Muller, serving to stay
in the game, netted a return on the first match point.
"It is nice to start the year with a win," a beaming Malisse
told reporters. "Especially playing after a long time, it is
good for confidence in the coming rounds."
Malisse played with a finger taped as he is recovering from
a tendon injury suffered six weeks ago.
"My match fitness will slowly improve," he said. I'll be a
little sore, but that will go."
Fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny overcame
a slow start before subduing Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic
The world No. 19, who quickly recovered after dropping
serve in the second game, said: "The first match [of the year]
is tough everywhere. The next match will be better."
Russian number two Mikhael Youzhny, the fourth seed, was due
to play Jiri Vanek of Czech Republic later on Monday in another
feature first-round match.