Rafael Nadal spent three and a quarter hours in a laboured opening victory at the Paris Masters on Wednesday, with injured fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro barely able to stand after losing 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.
Second seed Nadal made hard work out of his first time on court in three weeks, saving five match points in a dramatic second set to stay alive for the third round.
Almagro was treated throughout the final set for cramping in his thigh and leaned heavily on his racket during the closing stages with barely enough effort to stay on the court.
Nadal is among the six men already qualified for the World Tour Finals year-end event in London this month, with the chasing pack for the last two spots now down to five from seven Monday.
Robin Soderling kept in the race through a defeat of Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) with the Swede on provisional ninth in the race behind Nikolay Davydenko and Spain's Fernando Verdasco, seventh and eighth respectively.
Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, provisional tenth in the race to London, stayed alive by beating American John Isner 7-5, 7-6 (7-3).
Last week's Basle winner Novak Djokovic, the third seed, reached the third round over Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-3, 7-5.
"I didn't feel that great on the court, probably a long week in Basel affected me. I played the first match, and it was really early for me. But I got a victory, and that's what matters most."
Others seeds followed the template with US Open champion Juan Del Potro ending the career of the 2000 winner in New York with a defeat of Marat Safin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
The lone seed to lose was number 16 German Tommy Haas, knocked after a return from swine flu by France's Arnaud Clement 5-7, 6-3, 7-7 (10-8).
Safin, the two-time Grand Slam winner, 29, ended his time in tennis and was seen off with a farewell presentation in front of a holiday crowd in excess of 10,000 giving the mercurial and personable Russian a standing ovation.
In a surprise move by organisers, some of Safin's former colleagues were brought on to court including ex-French Open winner Albert Costa, Swiss Marc Rosset, and Younes El Aynaoui. Current ATP players who joined in included Novak Djokovic, Ivo Karlovic, and Gilles Simon.
Other players gave video tributes on the giant screen hanging over the court at the Bercy arena, with testimonials from Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Nikolay Davydenko included.
"This day will stand out in my memory," said the visibly moved Safin, whose exit from tennis will mean the loss of one of the sport's greatest characters and plain-speakers.
"This is where all of my memories are in one box - my wins, my losses, everything.
"One door is closing for me but hopefully another one is opening. If I can have just 10 percent of the success I've had in tennis in my next career, I will be satisfied," Safin said.
"I've had many tough moments on the court and these will help me in new things,"