Fourth seed Paul-Henri Mathieu improved his ATP Kremlin Cup tournament record to 13-3 after reaching the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky in Moscow on Wednesday.
The Frenchman, who converted three of 12 break point chances in the 1 hour and 26 minutes encounter, captured the title on his debut in 2002 and finished runner-up on his fourth visit last year. In the second round he will face Beijing finalist Dudi Sela.
Currently No. 23 in the ATP Rankings, Mathieu has now secured his 30th match win of the season and entered having reached his seventh ATP final in Metz last week.
Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili defeated his third-seeded compatriot Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 to hand the Moscow native his sixth first round defeat at the ATP Kremlin Cup.
World No. 66 Gabashvili, who also resides in Moscow, served nine aces and won just two points more than Youzhny in the 2 hours and 43 minutes encounter.
Elsewhere, Mischa Zverev of Germany progressed with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over compatriot Denis Gremelmayr.
The Moscow-born German citizen, who partnered Youzhny to the Tokyo doubles title last week, is through to the second round for the first time on his third visit.