ROTTERDAM          -         Defending champion Gael Monfils made a winning return to the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Wednesday, cruising past Joao Sousa 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round. Fresh from his record-equalling third title run at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier last week, the World No. 9 claimed his ninth win in 11 matches this season after 70 minutes. Monfils won 68 per cent of service points (34/50) and broke serve on four occasions en route to victory.

Monfils is aiming to become the first man since Robin Soderling to win back-to-back titles in Rotterdam. The Frenchman beat Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka in back-to-back three-set matches to claim the trophy last year. Monfils will meet Gilles Simon in the second round. Making his 11th appearance in Rotterdam, three-time Rotterdam semi-finalist Simon worked his way past Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 over two hours and 41 minutes. Simon owns a 7-2 ATP Head2Head advantage against third seed Monfils. In their most recent encounter on indoor hard courts, the World No. 57 edged Monfils in a final-set tie-break to lift the 2015 Open 13 Provence trophy in Marseille.

David Goffin beat home favourite Robin Haase 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 to open his bid for a first trophy in Rotterdam. Goffin saved both break points he faced in the deciding set to record his seventh ATP Head2Head win in eight matches against Haase. The Belgian, who reached the Open Sud de France semi-finals last week, has now won eight of 11 matches this year.

Goffin improves to 7-6 in Rotterdam after his two-hour, 29-minute victory. The World No. 10 reached the championship match at the ATP 500 event in 2017 and also made it through to the semi-finals in 2018. Goffin will face Jannik Sinner for a place in the quarter-finals. The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion, who was ranked No. 549 in the FedEx ATP Rankings 12 months ago, gained his place in the second round without hitting a ball when Radu Albot withdrew due to illness. The winner of Goffin and Sinner’s second-round clash will face Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals. The 28-year-old landed 11 aces and saved seven of nine break points to outlast sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4).