Estoril - Argentine drawcard Juan Martin del Potro on Monday took time away from training for his first serious 2012 test on clay, with the top seed lured out on a brief bicycle tour of the Atlantic coast resort town where players are staying during the Estoril Open.
The 12th-ranked South American took a spin over the cobblestone streets of Cascais, 20km from Lisbon along with second seed Richard Gasquet of France.
Del Potro, who arrived at the weekend from South America, will be making his pre-Roland Garros start when he plays in the second round after a bye against one of two Portuguese, wildcard Pedro Sousa or 90th-ranked Rui Machado.
Del Potro won the title here a year ago over Spain's Fernando Verdasco. He owns a trophy this season indoors in Marseille.
Since arriving from home, the 2009 US Open champion had put in multiple practice sessions to get accustomed once again to the conditions which he will face over the next four weeks until the May 27 start of the French Open.
"I'm feeling fit and ready to play," said Del Potro, winner of two Davis Cup matches on the surface in Buenos Aires during Davis Cup a month ago. "I'm thinking only about getting my form for this week.
"I'm not looking ahead yet to Roland Garros. I need to work hard before I start my tournament."
Gasquet, the second seed and ranked 18th, has not stepped onto clay since losing two Davis Cup matches last September against Spain.
The Frenchman is making his first return to Estoril since losing the 2007 final to Novak Djokovic back when the Serb world No 1 was just another talented youngster hoping for a breakthrough.
Swiss third seed Stanislas Wawrinka has also been haunting the practice courts at the Estadio Nacional complex as he makes his debut here.
Wawrinka has had a solid clay start in 2012, reaching semi-finals in Buenos Aires and Acapulco in February and losing a Monte Carlo quarter-final to Rafael Nadal.
"I want to keep up my level," said the 22nd ranked Swiss. "I've done very well so far on clay and don't want to stop now.
"Conditions here are different than in Monaco, there is much more wind. But after getting over a leg problem (in March in the US), I've showed I'm fit again.
"I'll be giving my maximum this week. I want to start getting rhythm for the big events coming up."
Estoril leads into the Madrid Masters starting on Sunday in the Spanish capital, a venue located at 650m above sea level. That makes the ball fly and requires another massive adjustment from players.
With final qualifying rounds dominating the Monday programme at the joint ATP-WTA event, a handful of main-draw matches were scheduled.
On the men's side, Italian Paolo Lorenzi staged a comeback to go past Eduardo Roger-Vasselin of France 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after more than two and a half hours. The winner will be the opening opponent for Gasquet.
Dutch sixth seed Robin Haase beat Italy's Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-2.
In women's play, top seed and four-time clay titleholder Robert Vinci of Italy advanced over Nina Bratchikova of Russia 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
Vinci had her difficulties against the world No 108, with the Italian who was broken four times winning just 10 points in the second set.
But she went onto avenge her Monterrey loss to Bratchikova earlier this year with a break of serve at 4-all on her way to the win, her 13th of the season.Results from the Estoril Open on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Robin Haase (NED x6) bt Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-3, 6-2
Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) bt Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4
Denis Istomin (UZB x5) bt Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 7-5, 6-1
Nadia Petrova (RUS x7) bt Barbara Luz (POR) 6-0, 6-1
Silvia Soler (ESP) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-4, 6-4
Roberta Vinci (ITA x1) bt Nina Bratchikova (RUS) 6-1, 1-6, 6-4
Carla Suarez (ESP) bt Olga Govortsova (BLR) 6-4, 6-4
Vania King (USA) bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-0