TORONTO – Doubting Novak Djokovic struggled to close out his opening win in searing heat at the Toronto Masters Wednesday while title holder Andy Murray played it cool as he rallied for a victory over Xavier Malisse.
Frustrated second seed Djokovic required multiple match points to down Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-5, 7-5. Murray broke Malisse twice to end the first set and easily powered through to A 7-5, 6-2 victory.
Murray slowly seized control, firing seven aces and breaking his 30-year-old opponent.
For Djokovic, however, it was a struggle to the end. The Serb admitted that his longstanding discomfort in hot weather again came into play.
"It was a big struggle, I was not feeling the best, But it is something overcame.
"I was lucky to come back when I needed to," said the player whose occasional fragility has plagued him for the past few seasons. "When I needed to hit winners, I went for it instead of waiting for him to make errors.
"That was a positive that came out of this. The heat was at least 30 Celsius and the court absorbs it and makes things even hotter. I was close to the edge today."
Djokovic, winner of the 2007 Canadian title, smashed a racket in the second set before finally improving to 4-1 in his career series against Benneteau.
He was playing for the first time since leading his country into the Davis Cup semi-finals last month.
Djokovic needed almost two and a quarter hours to get the job done against his 33rd-ranked opponent, whom he beat in the Wimbledon first round.
Djokovic will next face Romanian Victor Hanescu, who denied Peter Polansky the chance to to become the first Canadian into the third round at home since 2007 with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win.
Two Frenchman won through, with Michael Llodra upsetting Spain's Nicolas Almagro, the number 14, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 and 15th seed Gael Monfils beating Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 7-5, 6-3 to set up a match with Murray.
Russia's world number six Nikolay Davydenko beat Italian Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-1 but Ukranian Alexandr Dolgopolov upset 12th seed Russian Mikhail Youzhny 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5.
Last week's Washington winner David Nalbandian continued his comeback success from hip surgery and other injuries, putting out Spain's Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-0.
Including two Davis Cup wins in April before an extended injury absence, the Argentine has now won his last ten matches.