London, June 9:

Japan’s Kei Nishikori made a winning debut at the Queen’s Club championships with an impressive 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 first round victory over Alejandro Falla on Monday.

Nishikori, 18, is rapidly emerging as the best Japanese prospect for over a decade and he underlined that status to set up a second round clash against Sam Querrey or Olivier Patience.

French Open champion Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, the reigning champion here, Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray were among the top seeds given byes into the second round. So it was the perfect chance for Nishikori to take centre stage.

Many debutants on the grass courts of Queen’s sink without trace but Nishikori, ranked 113th in the world, has been learning his trade at coach Nick Bollettieri’s academy in Florida and is developing quickly.

He became the first Japanese winner of an ATP tournament since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1992 when he beat James Blake at Delray Beach in February. That success also made the teenager the youngest winner of an ATP title since Lleyton Hewitt ten years ago.

Nishikori only turned pro last year and, after a slow start, he proved more than a match for the more experienced Falla.

Croatia’s Mario Ancic showed his grass-court pedigree as he cruised past Nicolas Lapentti 7-5, 6-3 to set up a clash against Fernando Verdasco or Korea’s Hyug-Taik Lee. Ancic’s talent on grass is beyond question as he proved in 2002 with a stunning victory over Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

But a debilitating illness forced Ancic to miss six months of action last year and his ranking has plummeted as a result. This was the big-serving Croat’s first English grass-court campaign for two years and he started slowly as Lapentti broke in the fifth game.

Robby Ginepri of the US beat his compatriot Vince Spadea 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) to set up a second round tie against Roddick. Viktor Troicki of Serbia beat Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-4 and meets fourth seed David Nalbandian in the second round.