LONDON (AFP) - Andy Murray avenged last year's embarrassing Queen's Club exit against Nicolas Mahut as the world No. 2 kicked off a hectic Thursday with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory in his rain-delayed second-round clash.
The Scot had suffered a shock defeat by Mahut at the same stage of the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event 12 months ago, but the US Open champion's dominant display ensured there would be no repeat.
The 26-year-old will have little time to savour his win as he is scheduled to return to court later on Thursday to face Australia's Marinko Matosevic in the last 16 as the tournament catches up following several days of bad weather.
The gruelling schedule will be a significant test for two-time Queen's Club champion Murray, who missed the recent French Open after aggravating a recurring lower back injury during a match against Marcel Granollers in Rome.
This was the Scot's first competitive action for a month, but he showed few signs of rust despite the slippery conditions on the grass courts in west London.
"The back felt great, especially with the conditions we have had," he told the BBC.
"It is very cold and I'm sure, as anyone who has had a back problem knows, that's not good. But even with all the stopping and starting, it feels great and that is probably the most satisfying thing about the match."
Lleyton Hewitt continued his giant-killing run as the Australian moved into the quarter-finals with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over American sixth seed Sam Querrey.
Hewitt is a four-time champion at the event, but thoughts of a record fifth crown were some way from the former world No. 1's thoughts when he arrived at the start of the week. The 32-year-old is well into the twilight of his career and his lowly 82nd position in the world rankings reflects that diminished status.
But the former Wimbledon champion has always thrived on grass and he produced one of his best performances of 2013 to brush aside the highly-regarded Grigor Dimitrov in the second round before cutting big-serving Querrey down to size on Thursday.
Czech second seed Tomas Berdych maintained his strong start to the tournament as he progressed to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Slovenian 16th seed Grega Zemlja.