Former World No 1 Carlos Moya survived a shaky second set to scrape through 7-6, 7-6 against American qualifier Tim Smyczek in the first round of the Indian Wells ATP tournament on Thursday.
American Mardy Fish, runner-up at Indian Wells to Serb Novak Djokovic in 2008, recovered from a poor start to beat Germany's Michael Berrer 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 in an evening match.
Moya, who played only four events on the circuit last year after being hampered by a hamstring injury and having toe surgery, trailed Smyczek 3-5 and saved two set points before sealing victory in two hours 20 minutes.
Although the 33-year-old Spaniard failed to convert two match points when leading 6-5, he booked his place in the second round against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci on his fourth opportunity.
Moya, who saved two set points in the first set tie-break, struck a backhand winner past the 295th-ranked Smyczek to claim the win before being applauded by the fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"I was nervous when I was closing the match but I'm hitting the ball well," a smiling Moya, ranked a lowly 639th, said in a courtside interview. "I'm happy to be here with you."
Eleven years ago at this tournament, the popular Spaniard became the game's top-ranked player when he beat Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten in the semi-finals.
"I knew at the start of the tournament I had a chance," Moya recalled. "Four of us did - me, Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter and Alex Corretja. But they all lost their first match and then I knew, if I got to the final, I would be number one."
Fish, who recovered form after being broken three times by Berrer in the opening set, wrapped up victory in one hour 35 minutes and will next meet second-seeded Djokovic.
"It's great to be back at Indian Wells," the 28-year-old American said. "I have some special memories of the last two years here, winning the doubles with Andy Roddick last year and the run I made in '08."
Fish was eager to take on Djokovic in the second round.
"We have played three or four times and we have had some great matches," he said. "He beat me at Wimbledon the last time we played in straight sets. Other than that, we've gone the distance."
In the Indian Wells WTA tournament, World No 747 Sloane Stephens of the US became the lowest-ranked player to win a main draw match at this event with a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Czech Lucie Hradecka in the opening round.Unseeded American teenager Melanie Oudin, who stunned Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to storm into the quarter-finals of last year's US Open, was beaten 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 by Italy's Roberta Vinci.