The former World No. 1 converted four of six break points to overcome Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium 6-4, 7-6(4). Murray improves to 5-3 at tour-level since arriving at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month.
Competing in Antwerp for the first time, Murray was forced to recover from a break down on two occasions in the second set before clinching a one-hour, 44-minute victory in the second-set tie-break. Facing the possibility of a third set, the 45-time tour-level titlist played with patience from the baseline to extract multiple errors from his opponent.
Despite the straight-sets performance, though, Murray found areas he hopes to improve this week. “I wasn’t that happy with some of the things I did on the court tonight. I didn’t serve well,” said Murray, who experienced elbow pain last week in Shanghai. “Mentally, in a lot of the matches I’ve played since I came back, when I’ve gotten ahead, I haven’t had that killer instinct. Before, when I got ahead, I felt like I played well from in front, whereas I haven’t been doing that so much recently.”
Murray will face eighth seed Pablo Cuevas or Hugo Dellien of Bolivia in the second round. The 32-year-old owns a 2-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Cuevas and is yet to meet Dellien at tour-level.
Jan-Lennard Struff needed just 44 minutes to race past Gregoire Barrere of France 6-2, 6-1. The seventh-seeded German won 23 of 24 first-serve points and converted five of seven break points to record his fifth win in seven matches at the ATP 250 event. Struff has reached the quarter-finals in each of his two previous appearances in Antwerp (2016, ’18).
This was Darcis’ last tour-level appearance in Belgium, following his announcement that he plans to retire after next year’s Australian Open. Simon will face 2017 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Soonwoo Kwon rallied from a set down to upset 2016 winner Richard Gasquet 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. The South Korean recorded his seventh tour-level win of the year after one hour and 50 minutes to hand Gasquet just his second loss in eight matches at the tournament. Kwon will meet fifth seed Guido Pella in the second round.
Spain’s Feliciano Lopez levelled his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Cameron Norrie at 1-1 after beating the Brit 7-6(2), 6-4. Lopez will face fourth seed Stan Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.
Italian wild card Jannik Sinner also booked his place in the second round, breaking Kamil Majchrzak on four occasions to record a 6-4, 6-2 victory. The Next Gen ATP Finals contender will meet top seed Gael Monfils in the second round.