Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro moved into the second round of the Japan Open with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus on Tuesday.
Playing under the roof at Ariake Colosseum because of rain, del Potro came back from a sluggish first set to secure the win in just over two hours.
“The match came to me in the end,” del Potro said. “I was focusing on breaking his serve and finally did it. He was hitting a lot of aces (17).”
Del Potro, ranked seventh in the world, prevailed with solid play from the baseline and capitalised on some crucial mistakes by Baghdatis.
Baghdatis, ranked 49th, broke serve in the opening game of the match and held throughout to take the first set. The Cypriot mixed it up, frequently coming to the net and using drop shots to try and keep del Potro off balance.
The players exchanged breaks early in the second set, and then stayed on serve until the final game, when del Potro broke with a volley to level the sets.
The crucial point in the match came in the eighth game of the final set, when del Potro converted on his fourth break point chance to go up 5-3 after Baghdatis hit a return into the net.
“It was important for me to win this kind of match,” del Potro said. “Playing him in the first round is probably the worst person to face. He is unseeded here and dangerous. He plays well on the hard-courts.”
Del Potro was a late addition to the tournament after Andy Murray, the 2011 champion, pulled out due to a back injury. Del Potro is seeking his third title of the season in this tournament, following victories in Rotterdam and Washington.
In other first-round action, unseeded Horacio Zeballos of Argentina beat qualifier Ryan Harrison of the United States 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Defending champion Kei Nishikori, the fourth seed, was scheduled to play unseeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria later on Tuesday.
Third-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada, who lost to Nishikori in the final last year, will play his first-round match against Go Soeda on Wednesday.