Djokovic banking on surface advantage

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The Independent Online

Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic was the only seeded player to fall on a rain-interrupted opening day of the Toronto Masters.

Spain's Feliciano Lopez proved to be Stepanek's conqueror on Monday, beating the 11th seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, on a day without the draw cards Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in singles action. All three, who are launching their North American hard-court campaigns in Toronto, have been granted first-round byes in the tournament.

"Obviously this is the surface that suits my game most," said Djokovic, who was opening his title defence last night with a second-round match against Canada's Frank Dancevic. "It is my most preferred surface, the surface where I have my best results and biggest achievement of my career. So I think it is enough reason to expect to do well in the hard-court season. Defending this title I have a lot of responsibilities and expectations, but it is a challenge," the Australian Open champion added.

While the men's top three did not play on Monday, five other seeds advanced to the second round, with ninth-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka beating the rain that delayed play for almost two hours with a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Italy's Simone Bolelli.

Wawrinka was joined in the second round by 10th-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who disposed of his Davis Cup team-mate Michael Llodra 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. "I know him well, I played Davis Cup with him and I practise with him, so it's always difficult to play against a countryman," Gasquet said. "It was OK for me to play three sets. For sure I prefer to win in two sets, but I'm happy to get the win."