Robin Soderling shrugged off a slow start, firing 26 races as he lifted his game to earn a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Serra Monday and reach the second round.
The third seed admitted that he could have used a quicker start.
“The first match of the week is always the most difficult for me,” said the 2009 Roland Garros finalist. “I could have had a better start.”
“But my game got better and better. I know I can play a lot better. I’m satisfied with the win but not really with my form.”
The victory was the first of the season for Söderling after losses in Chennai and Melbourne last month. Soderling cranked up his huge serve, which apart from his numerous aces also saw him break his opponent’s serve three times.
The world number eight finally sealed victory with an easy third set in a match that lasted an hour and three-quarters.
Söderling dropped the first set on an early break but turned the tables after fighting through the second and sweeping the third against his 60th-ranked opponent.
German Florian Mayer got stuck into an opening-day marathon, requiring almost three hours to advance over Serb Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (8/6).
The marathon took up most of the afternoon inside the Ahoy stadium in contrast to the day’s opening contest when Italy’s Andreas Seppi defeated Swiss qualifier Stephane Bohli 6-1, 7-5 in a shade less than 90 minutes.
The 63rd-ranked Mayer, who lost in the Australian Open third round to US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, admitted: “I had chances in the second set (match point) and led 3-0 in the third.”
“I couldn’t hold onto to either one. In the end I was just lucky to win.”
Mayer’s win marked the third straight match that Tipsarevic had been beaten by a German.
He went out in the Zagreb opening round to eventual finalist Michael Berrer and lost in the second round of the Australian open against Tommy Haas – who received an American passport a few weeks ago.
Tipsarevic has now lost three of four career matches in Rotterdam dating back to 2007.
Tipsarevic’s countryman Novak Djokovic is the top seed as he strives to hang onto his new world number two ranking on the ATP list behind Roger Federer.
Holder Andy Murray, still stung after losing to Federer eight days ago in the Australian Open final, is not playing this week while 2009 losing finalist Rafael Nadal is resting his right knee until a likely return scheduled for mid-March at Indian Wells.
Against Tipsarevic, Mayer had the chance to close out a straight-set victory, but missed his match point chance in the tiebreaker.
The 26-year-old German improved to 3-2 this season as he finally prevailed in the deciding set after saving a Tipsarevic match point.
Mayer managed a dozen aces, saving nine of the ten break points he faced. Tipsarevic lost serve twice to level at a 4-4 record for 2010.