MELBOURNE, Jan 08, 2014 (AFP) -Czech Tomas Berdych shrugged off a slow start to recover from 5-2 down in the first set to defeat Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-2 at the Kooyong Classic Wednesday.
Berdych, ranked seventh but winless last year, said that a red-and-white court background at the eight-man Australian Open tune-up made it tough for him to see the ball as he faced Verdasco.
"I struggled with the background, it was really tough to make out the ball. But after a while I started to see it more clearly," he said after his win on the opening day.
"I began hitting the ball better and my game got better and better as the match went on."
Berdych recovered in the opening set after losing an early serve before breaking Verdasco to make the score 5-all.
He claimed the set two games later after nearly an hour on court.
The Czech took a double break in the second set for a 5-2 margin before closing out victory a game later on his first match point.
"I faced some tough situations, it was a solid start," said Berdych, a first-round loser last week in Doha to Ivo Karlovic from Croatia.
Spain's Verdasco finished with more than 30 unforced errors in challenging conditions which included sun and wind.
"I need as many matches as possible in these fast conditions before the Australian Open," Berdych added.
"I have improvements to make to my game, but they won't be dramatic, just little by little."
Japan's Kei Nishikori beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to earn his second victory over the Bulgarian coached by Australian Roger Rasheed, former mentor to Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Nishikori led throughout and was never threatened by Dimitrov, who is ranked 23rd to his opponent's 17th.
Nishikori earned a 5-1 lead on Dimitrov's double-fault in the first set but needed four set points to seal the opener as Dimitrov put a return wide.
The second set was more straightforward, with Nishikori breaking in the third game to keep his nose ahead all the way to victory in 74 minutes.
The final two matches of the day at the relegation-promotion event which ends Saturday feature France's Richard Gasquet against Australian youngster Jordan Thompson, a substitute for holder Hewitt, and Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka facing Gilles Simon of France.
Hewitt withdrew to rest after running down his energy levels during last week's Brisbane International where he beat Roger Federer for the title.
Results on the first day of the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday:
Tomas Berdych (CZE) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 7-5, 6-2
Kei Nishikori (JPN) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4