Andy Murray began his quest for a first China Open title with a comfortable first-round victory against Italy’s Andreas Seppi in Beijing.
The British top seed, 29, won 6-2 7-5 against the world number 94.
The three-time Grand Slam winner broke Seppi’s serve twice in the opening set, then fought back from 2-0 down in the second to win in straight sets.
Meanwhile, fellow Briton Johanna Konta’s match on the outside courts was cancelled because of heavy rain.
The British number one, 25, was due to face Hungary’s Timea Babos in their second-round match.
Murray hopes to profit from Djokovic absence from the tournament.
Murray has targeted overtaking Novak Djokovic as the world’s top-ranked player and, with the Serb missing the China Open through injury, the Scot has an opportunity to narrow the gap this week.
While Murray has triumphed at Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, Djokovic’s form has dipped since beating his rival to the French Open title.
Djokovic was beaten in the early rounds at Wimbledon and Rio 2016, and although he reached the US Open final earlier this month, he was beaten by Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka.
Murray is almost 4,700 points behind Djokovic in the world rankings but knows winning in Beijing – and taking the 500 ranking points available – will move him 1,000 points closer to the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
And he made a decent start by sweeping aside Seppi in his first match since suffering a thigh injury in the Davis Cup defeat by Argentina two weeks ago.
Murray was handed victory when Seppi’s serve crumbled in the final game, two double faults – including one on the match-winning point – seeing Murray through in one hour and 26 minutes.
The Scot will now face a Russian player in the second round, meeting the winner of the game between Konstantin Kravchuk and Andrey Kuznetsov.
He could potentially play Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals after the fellow Brit beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday.