BARCELONA, Spain, April 22 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Open champion Marat Safin returned Tuesday three weeks after an injury scare and defeated Spanish qualifier Salvador Navarro, 7-5, 6-2, to reach the third round of the $1.08 million Open Seat Godo.
The 23-year-old Russian, who received a first-round bye as a top-eight seed, struggled in the first set but found traction in the second to defeat a man who beat him at a Challenger event six years ago.
The fourth seed, Safin learned his tennis in Spain after being sent from Moscow as a teenager by his mother, who also was his coach.
The brother of WTA Tour member Dinara Safina, Safin won the Barcelona title in 2000, the same year he claimed a Grand Slam trophy at Flushing Meadows with a win over Pete Sampras.
Safin has not played since the Tennis Masters Series event in Miami, where he lost his opening match to Italian Davide Sanguinetti. He injured his ankle in Argentina before Russia's 5-0 Davis Cup loss three weeks ago.
Navarro broke Safin to even the first set at 5-5, but Safin broke back, then saved four break points to win the set. He took the momentum to the second set, winning the first four games.
"The ankle is better," he said. "It's been three weeks since I have played a match It's difficult to come back. You are lacking in confidence and you are scared to move around the court."
The 26-year-old French Open champion defeated Argentine Mariano Zabaleta, 6-3, 7-5, in front of a home crowd and next takes on Argentine Agustin Calleri.
The 16th-seeded South American, a finalist two weeks ago in Estoril, defeated compatriot Juan Chela, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, to reach the third round.
Spaniard David Sanchez scored an upset over fifth seed Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, hammering the top Asian, 6-0, 6-2.
Tenth-seeded Gaston Gaudio of Argentina got off to a solid start in his title defense, beating Arnaud Clement of France, 6-4, 6-3.
In other results, 12th-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain knocked out Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, 6-3, 6-2; Galo Blanco upset 15th seed Max Mirnyi of Belarus, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4); Felix Mantilla of Spain, the 1999 winner, ousted Argentine Mariano Puerta, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3.
Nadal reached the second round the easy way as Juan Marin quit with a knee injury after dropping their opening set, 6-0. Marin injured himself with his racket during a shot.