Spain’s Fernando Verdasco was headed to Portugal on Monday to take his place at the Estoril Open boosted by fresh clay confidence after winning his first ATP title in two years.
The 32-year-old Spaniard, who will start as a wild card in the seaside resort venue outside Lisbon and faces eighth-seeded compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round, beat Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-2 in a rain-delayed Monday final in Bucharest.
His last trophy came in April 2014, on clay in Houston.
Verdasco could well be a changed player in Estoril, an event which he first played in 2002. He last appeared here in 2011, losing the final to Juan Martin Del Potro.
His Bucharest success, a seventh ATP title in all, was also his first appearance at the business end of a tournament in more than a year and should send his ranking back into the ATP top 50.
Verdasco has suffered from neck and hip problems over the last two seasons.
“The most important thing now is to win matches,” said the former top 10 player. “I’ve had injuries this year, now I want to stay healthy.
“These last few months have been complicated for me. It’s been a long time since I was in this position, to win a tournament or to play in a final.”
Verdasco will land in a field headed by debutant Gilles Simon, with 2015 finalist Nick Kyrgios expected to carry the majority of the week’s charisma load.
The controversial Australian second seed lost the title match a year ago to Richard Gasquet, who joined compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in making an injury pullout (back and knee respectively).
Kyrgios has not played since an early loss on hardcourt in Miami a month ago, spending time at home in Canberra as he worked to bury niggling fitness issues. He returns with his first ATP title in hand after winning Marseille in February.
His clay preparation for Roland Garros begins after a bye, facing the winner from Spaniards Daniel Munoz De La Nava and Inigo Cervanes.
In an opening-day match, Argentine seventh seed Leonardo Mayer put out the first of the four Portuguese entrants, defeating 368th-ranked wild card Pedro Sousa 6-1, 6-4.
The host nation lost a second hopeful as Spaniard Nicolas Almagro defeated Frederico Silva, 6-3, 6-2, keeping the number 249 without a career ATP win.
Almagro played the Buenos Airles final two months ago against Dominic Thiem, but has since seen his level drop, winning just three of nine matches since.
The number 71 will next line up against his second straight Portuguese opponent when he plays fourth seed Joao Silva.
Croatian sixth seed Borna Coric beat Italy’s Andrea Arnaoldi 6-4, 6-1.