Exhausted Djokovic scrapes by in Toronto Masters

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Second seed Novak Djokovic had to overcome sweltering heat and determined Frenchman Julien Benneteau to claim a gritty 7-5 7-5 win at the Toronto Masters on Wednesday and a spot in the third round.

By the end of the match, which lasted a little more than two hours, an exhausted Djokovic was slumped over the net and gasping for breath.

"I have said before, I will never risk my health to win and I was really on the edge," Djokovic, who has struggled with heat-related issues throughout his career, told reporters.

Briton Andy Murray followed the Serb on center court and, after a slow start, sped past Belgian Xavier Malisse 7-5 6-2.

It was a positive start for Murray, who needs a good result in Toronto to keep Swede Robin Soderling from replacing him as world number four.

After falling behind 3-1 in the first set Murray broke to make it 5-5 and never looked back, sweeping nine of the last 11 games including the final four to close out the match.

"I guess I got better as the match went on," Murray told reporters. "He was playing very well at the start and I needed to get a bit more energy into my performance.

"Sometimes when you aren't feeling your best you need to force yourself to move."

A winner on the Canadian hardcourts in 2007, Djokovic appeared uncomfortable the moment he stepped onto the court and eventually summoned for the trainer after going down a break in the second set.

Struggling for air, Djokovic appeared ready to throw in the towel but hung on as Benneteau kept up the pressure.

Sixth seed Nikolai Davydenko of Russia had smooth passage into the third round easing past Italian Fabio Fognini 7-5 6-1 while 15th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils disposed of The Netherlands' Thiemo De Bakker 7-5 6-3.

Russian 12th seed Mikhail Youzhny was eliminated after a 1-6 7-6 7-5 loss to Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov. He was joined at the exit by 14th seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain who was swept aside 7-6 6-2 by Frenchman Michael Llodra.

Argentine David Nalbandian continued his impressive run since returning from a hamstring injury racking up his 10th straight win crushing Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-0.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)