NEW YORK — Top-seeded Ivan Lendl opened his bid for a fifth Masters championship Thursday night, winning seven straight games en route to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over eighth-seeded Brad Gilbert.
Lendl, the defending champion, needed only 68 minutes to beat Gilbert for the 13th straight time.
Boris Becker, also making his first appearance, met Jimmy Connors in the second match of the $500,000 event at Madison Square Garden, followed by Stefan Edberg against Miloslav Mecir.
"I was very nervous at the beginning and it took me a while to shake it off," Lendl said. "After that, it was pretty easy. Brad didn't serve very well and I took advantage of it."
From 1-2 in the opening set, Lendl put together his string of seven games, carrying him to 2-0 in the second set. Gilbert managed to get back to 2-2 as he broke Lendl for the only time in the fourth game.
In the next game, though, Gilbert double faulted to give Lendl break point, and the world's No. 1 player completed the break with a smash. Lendl then swept the next three games.
Despite the lopsided victory, Lendl wasn't satisfied with his performance.
"I wasn't happy with my hitting today," he said. "I felt I was falling off the ball."
Gilbert has won only three sets against Lendl since they first began playing against each other in 1982.
"He has a mental block when we come together," Lendl said.
Lendl, who is seeking his third straight Masters title, said he took advantage of Gilbert's weak second serve and short approach shots.
"If he wants to come in, he has to do it well or else I'll pass him," Lendl said.
Gilbert is now 1-1 in the round-robin tournament, which features the top eight players in the world. The 26-year-old from Piedmont, Calif., who was the last player to qualify for the Masters, beat Connors in straight sets Wednesday night.
Each man plays three matches to determine who advances to Sunday's semifinals.