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Monday, December 31, 2007
Nadal, partner Salva-Vidal lose doubles match at Chennai Open


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.

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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 6-3, 6-2.

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."

Sixth seed Jurgen Melzer of Austria defeated Paul Capdeville of Chile 6-2, 6-4 while Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin thrashed Indian national grass-court champion Vishnu Vardan 6-1, 6-2.

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.