Murray falls to Novak but defends dip in form

Andy Murray said he is not unduly concerned by his current form despite being knocked out of the Japan Open in the second round by Jiri Novak, 6-3, 7-6.

The Scot, who was playing his first match in the singles in Tokyo having received a bye in the first round, was up against the 31-year-old for the first time. The Czech took the first set with ease and looked to be heading the same way in the second as he raced to a 4-1 lead, but Murray lifted himself to make it 6-6. However, Novak ensured the 19-year-old's fightback ended there, by raising his game another level to take the set 7-6.

Murray defended his recent form, having been knocked out of the Thailand Open by Tim Henman last week in the first round. "Every young player goes through a patch where he's not playing well," he said. "You can't expect to get to the semi-finals every week unless you're Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. They are the only two who can do it. I wasn't looking that far ahead.

"It's not like I lost to bad players," he added. "Henman has been at the top of the game for a long time. Novak was No 5 in the world [in 2002]. I did well to fight back into the match but unfortunately I couldn't quite turn it around."

Murray will now concentrate on progressing in the doubles with his brother, Jamie, after the pair beat Eric Butorac and Travis Parrott 7-5, 6-3 on Tuesday.

Germany's Benjamin Becker, best known as the man who ushered Andre Agassi into retirement at last month's US Open, will face Novak next after thrashing Thailand's Danai Udomchoke 6-2, 6-1.

Federer secured a place in the third round with a straight-sets victory but he was given a fright by Viktor Troicki, a player 275 places below him in the rankings. The world No 1, in his first singles tournament since the US Open, prevailed 7-6, 7-6 in an hour and 43 minutes to earn a third-round meeting with the defending champion, Wesley Moodie. The 13th-seeded South African had seen off the Austrian Stefan Koubek 6-3, 6-4 earlier.

"I made it hard on myself," Federer said. "Thank God I have the ability to play well when I really need it. It was a tough match and I'm really happy I came through." Federer improved his win-loss record for the year to 73-5, but said: "I did not want to take too many risks. I wanted to get a rhythm for myself."

The second seeded Tommy Robredo, of Spain, booked his place in the last 16 with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win over the Taiwanese qualifier Lu Yen-hsun. Jarkko Nieminen, of Finland, also advanced to the third round, the fifth seed beating the German Lars Burgsmüller 7-5, 7-6 on an outside court.

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