VIENNA: Andy Murray and David Ferrer stayed in the race for the year-end ATP finals as both of the leading seeds won their opening matches at the Austrian Open on Thursday.
Tournament number one Ferrer, who cannot increase his points unless he reaches the Sunday final at the Stadthalle, opened in the second round after a bye with a 7-5, 6-1 defeat of Tobias Kamke.
Second seed Murray, a debutant in the Austrian capital, defeated Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-4.
Ferrer stands provisional ninth in the points race to the World Tour Finals next month in London; Murray is trailing on tenth.
With eighth-placed Canadian Milos Raonic losing his opening match in Moscow due to illness, the sprint to the finish over the season is only tightening for the three remaining spots in the eight-man field.
Ferrer is not one to worry about that just now though – he faces a more immediate task when he plays a Friday quarter-final against Croatian serving machine Ivo Karlovic.
“Even if Milos lost, it doesn’t help my chances,” said the 32-year-old. “Murray is behind me, but not by much. If I lose tomorrow, I’m in exactly the same position as Milos.
“I now can only focus on my next match, a very difficult one.”
Ferrer is playing Vienna for the first time in a decade and earned his first victory form three matches here.
“It’s been a long time, in 2003 here I lost the first of many matches against Roger Federer – and I still have not won one against him.”
Ferrer needed just under 90 minutes to see off the 93rd-ranked Kamke.
The Spaniard fought through a first set lasting 54 minutes before breaking in the final game to earn the set with a backhand winner to the corner.
Ferrer took a grip on the match in the second set, racing away to victory on his second match point.
Murray struggled with his game in the opening set against Pospisil, who has not been past a second round since August.
The second seed who took a wild card to Vienna, missed several chances in the opening set before finally earning a break for 5-4 and closing out the set a game later.
“I didn’t start very well, he was serving well,” said Murray. “I had to work hard to get into the match.
“I need to improve in the next round,” he said prior to facing German Jan-Lennard Struff, who beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 7-6 (7/1) with 12 aces.
“Sometimes a player you don’t know can go out on court with nothing to fear. They can play very aggressive.”
Murray went up a break early in the second after winning a tight first. He broke for 3-1 but lost it at 3-3 before finally closing it out wit a break in the penultimate game of the frustrated Canadians who has not been past a second round since August.
Two other seeds exited as Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci staged a fightback to dismiss third seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (9/11), 6-1, 6-4.
The Spaniard arrived in Europe from Shanghai, where he reached the semi-finals at the weekend, losing to eventual French finalist Gilles Simon.
Serb Viktor Troicki continued to rebuild his ranking after serving a disciplinary ban which ended in July, reaching the quarter-finals with a defeat of Czech fifth seed Lukas Rosol 6-3, 6-2.
Troicki will be playing his first quarter since May, 2013, in Dusseldorf.