Raonic cruises by Stepanek at Japan Open

Win sets up a second-round meeting against Serbia's Viktor Troicki

It only took 83 minutes for Canada’s Milos Raonic to complete his first-round match at the Japan Open on Tuesday.

The Thornhill, Ont., native, who is currently ranked 14th in the world, won in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 against Czech opponent Radek Stepanek.

Raonic’s serve was on point as he fired up 10 aces, including one on match point.

Tuesday’s encounter marked the third time that the two players have faced off against each other with the Canadian winning all three matches. The previous wins against Stepanek both came in 2011 in Barcelona and Memphis.

For Raonic, the victory will provide him with a boost after he was surprisingly eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open by Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen. Raonic admits he was motivated by last week’s loss.

“It was a good start for me,” said Raonic. “It was a chance for me to correct a few things that I didn’t like about the way I finished in Bangkok. This is a good sign for me.”

In the last two Japan Open tournaments Raonic was eliminated by Rafael Nadal in the second round.

Nadal advanced to the final both years, and won the tournament in 2010. But Raonic’s performance and serving statistics in the two encounters certainly turned some heads on the ATP Tour.

Following his win over Stepanek, Raonic will now face Viktor Troicki in the second round.

The 26-year-old from Serbia, who is currently ranked 32nd in the world, also won his first-round match with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Robin Haase of the Netherlands. Troicki has already improved on his 2011 performance at the Japan Open where he was defeated by Bernard Tomic in the first round.

Raonic and Troicki have only met once in their careers with the two battling at this year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto. The Canadian delighted the home fans by cruising to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

“In the next round I hope to keep doing what I’ve been doing today,” said Raonic about the upcoming clash. “I need to play my game and stay aggressive. I want to play on my terms out there as much as possible.”

A win against Troicki would put Raonic in the quarter-finals of a tournament that is missing some big names, including Roger Federer, Nadal, David Ferrer, and Martin Del Potro.

The lack of top players does provide Raonic with an excellent opportunity of grabbing his third singles title of the year and the fourth of his career.