Leonardo Mayer will have the chance to gain revenge over Dominic Thiem for his defeat in last year's Open de Nice Cote d'Azur final after beating Jiri Vesely in three sets in round one on Tuesday.
The pair met in the 2015 showpiece at clay-court event, and it was Thiem who came out on top in a titanic struggle.
Having lost the first set on that occasion, Thiem fought back to seal an epic 6-7 (8-10) 7-5 7-6 (7-2) success and he returns this year to defend his title.
As top seed, Thiem was given a first-round bye but no such luxury was afforded to Mayer, who edged out Vesely 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3 in another match that went the distance.
Also in the first round, there were wins for Paul-Henri Mathieu and Andreas Seppi, while Marcel Granollers eased past 2012 runner-up Brian Baker 6-3 6-1.
In second-round action, third seed Kevin Anderson - handed a wildcard for the event - advanced to the last eight with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman, but fourth seed Benoit Paire suffered a damaging 6-3 6-0 defeat against French compatriot Adrian Mannarino.
Paire, ranked 21st in the world, found himself 5-1 down in the opening set and, although he rescued three set points, could not stop Mannarino getting his nose in front.
And the second set was a procession, Paire winning just eight points as Mannarino romped to a bagel and a quarter-final meeting with Guido Pella, who beat Donald Young 6-3 6-0.
Meanwhile, fifth seed Joao Sousa came from a set down to defeat Victor Estrella and will meet Anderson in the last eight.