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Raonic Dismisses Benneteau; Paire Wins On Debut

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Paire© Getty ImagesBenoit Paire beat Ivan Dodig on his main draw debut in Monte-Carlo.

Canadian No. 12 seed Milos Raonic surged into the second round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Monday with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4 victory over France’s Julien Benneteau. Raonic fired 15 aces and capitalised on three of his four break points to claim victory in 72 minutes.

The 22-year-old Raonic is coming off a successful Davis Cup weekend, during which he led Canada into the World Group semi-finals for the first time with victory over Italy. The right-hander was victorious in the final edition of the SAP Open in San Jose in February and improved to a 14-4 match record on the season.

"I think it's a very good start," said Raonic. "A lot of things I did well, especially only having a limited amount of preparation before here. Davis Cup was a very good thing, but it was also a very draining thing. It takes a lot of energy to get through that weekend. So I was very happy with how I was able to prepare and play today. 

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"From the first year to last year to this year, it's not as much of a mental stress (adapting to clay). That's the biggest change. It still takes a lot of effort for the transition and everything. But it's not as mentally draining, as stressful for me as it has been the past two years."

On his third visit to the Monte-Carlo Country Club, Raonic will face Jarkko Nieminen in the second round after the Finn dismissed Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-1, 6-2 in 62 minutes.

Ninth seed Marin Cilic overcame a second-set blip to defeat Horacio Zeballos 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-2 in just over two hours. The Croat had served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and was forced to deal with a late Zeballos fightback. The 24-year-old Cilic won the Zagreb title in February and has a 16-5 season record.

A pair of Frenchmen enjoyed first-round victories. World No. 33 Benoit Paire, runner-up in Montpellier in February, overcame Croatia’s Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-4 on his Monte-Carlo main draw debut, while qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin defeated Robin Haase of The Netherlands 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes.

Talking about the recent work he has been doing with his coach, Paire said, "We just want to work on what I need to improve. We work on my mental approach. Today I was able to play a very good match. I played two bad service games, and I was broken twice after being two breaks up. I was still able to stay focused and win the match 6-4, 6-4. 

"So I learned a lot already and I'm able to be in the second round in this tournament.  I don't know how far I can go. The only thing I know is I will always try to do my best."

Gilles Simon, the No. 11 seed from France, was upset in the first round, falling to Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-3, 7-6(6). In a match featuring 13 service breaks, Bautista-Agut converted seven of his 10 opportunities to clinch victory in just under two hours.

"I was tired (in the first set)," admitted Simon. "Long rallies were killing me. In every game I was giving him a couple of free points, which hurts a lot on clay because from his side there were not many free points. If I had won that second set, no one knows what would have happened. He would have been down after that, I believe. I'm always disappointed when I lose a match, especially when I had break points. But this time I was serving so badly after those breaks, it was useless."

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