ST PETERSBURG: Top seed and defending champion Andy Murray cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 first round victory over Viktor Troicki of Serbia at the St Petersburg Open on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Scot, the world number four who captured the Madrid Masters at the weekend, improved to 49-14 on the season and will take on Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the second round on Thursday.
In their previous meeting in the third round at Queen's Club in June, Murray prevailed 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
Third-seed and last year's runner-up Fernando Verdasco needed only a little over an hour to defeat Latvian wild card Karlis Lejnieks 6-1, 6-3, to advance to the quarter-finals.
Verdasco will next take on German Rainer Schuettler in the quarter-finals.
The 32-year-old Schuettler, who is the oldest player in the singles draw, reached his sixth quarter-final this season with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Slovak Republic's Dominik Hrbaty.
In a first round match, eighth seed Marat Safin, who is coming off a runner-up effort in Moscow 10 days ago, defeated top Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-4 in 68 minutes.
The two-time St. Petersburg champion (2000-01) hit nine aces, converted four of seven break points and saved three of four on his serve.
He will next face Kazakhstan qualifier Andrey Golubev, who fired 17 aces in a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Belgian Olivier Rochus.
Meanwhile second-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko withdrew from his scheduled second round match with Russian wild card Michail Elgin due to a left wrist injury.