Chennai, Jan 1: World number two 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.
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 Marcus 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 semi-finals 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 made a smooth start, breaking the big-serving Muller's serve in the opening game and also snatched an early break in the second to lead 4-2 before sealing the match.
"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."
Russian number two and fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny overcame a slow start before subduing Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic 6-3 6-2.
The world number 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 grasscourt champion Vishnu Vardan 6-1 6-2.