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Canada's Milos Raonic prepares to return the ball to Julien Benneteau of France during their match of the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament in Monaco, Monday, April 15 , 2013.

Lionel Cironneau/AP

Canada's Milos Raonic continued his tuneup for the French Open with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) first-round win over Nikolay Davydenko on Monday at the clay-court Madrid Open.

Davydenko gave 12th-seeded Raonic all he could handle in the first career meeting between the players. The 22-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., finally put the Russian veteran away on his second match point in a second-set tiebreaker.

"I didn't play my best but I got through," Raonic said after serving only six aces in a match lasting just over 90 minutes. "I had to make the most of my game.

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"I didn't serve that well but I still managed to take care of my serve. Late in both sets I stepped up my return game. I just made it through."

Also Monday, Ottawa's Jesse Levine lost in his opener against Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2 in 53 minutes a the South African dominated with 11 aces and four breaks of serve.

Raonic is playing his third spring event on clay after winning a round in Monte Carlo and advancing the Barcelona semifinals, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in heavy, wet conditions. He's trying to get his clay-court game ready for the French Open, which starts May 26. Raonic reached the third round of the Grand Slam event in 2012.

The 22-year-old Raonic needed 47 minutes to get through the opening set against Davydenko. The former World No. 3 saved a set point in the final game before Raonic popped a forehand winner deep into the corner to secure the lead.

"Davydenko's has been around and knows how to win," Raonic said. "He has a lot of experience — which I don't have — and that gives him something extra."

He finally put the game away in a second-set tiebreaker, scoring on a forehand deep into the corner on second match point.

Raonic's next opponent will be Madrid local Fernando Verdasco, who knocked Rafael Nadal out of the tournament a year ago in the third round when it was played on the controversial blue clay.

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The pair stand level at two wins each in their career series, with Verdasco taking the last two — on clay — in 2011 at Estoril, Portugal and Rome.

"It's been two years since we played and I think I'm a better clay player than I was back then," Raonic said. "But the first thing is that I must play better than I did today. That's a key part to everything."

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