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NEW YORK (Reuters) - David Nalbandian, many people's outside bet to win the U.S. Open, moved into the third round of the tournament on Friday with a confident 7-5 6-4 6-2 victory over Florent Serra of France.
The 31st-seeded Argentine shook off the challenge of world number 66 Serra in one hour 52 minutes to set up a showdown with Spanish number eight seed Fernando Verdasco.
Nalbandian had needed five sets to get through his first match and when Serra broke to lead 2-0 it looked like he was in for another tough test.
But once the former Wimbledon finalist had recovered to win the first set, there was no way back for Serra and the Argentine progressed with ease.
"It was important for me to win in three sets today," Nalbandian said. "Even though I had two days off and was able to recover, it is always better to win quickly."
Nalbandian missed last year's U.S. Open while he recovered from hip surgery and has missed three months since April due to an abdominal tear and a hamstring strain.
But he returned in style in July, winning the title in Washington in his first event back and arrived at the U.S. Open as an outside bet to win it.
Nalbandian said he could not explain why he was able to hit form so quickly after injury, but said he felt strong as he prepared to face Verdasco.
"I feel really good," he said. "I didn't feel tired at all today but Verdasco is a good player and I will need to keep believing in my game if I want to win."
Editing by Frank Pingue