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Federer star attraction in Tokyo

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TOKYO, Japan -- World number one Roger Federer has been playing to large crowds even before he has struck a ball in anger at the Japan Open in Tokyo.

Over 1,000 noisy fans watched him practice on center court on Monday ahead of his opener on Wednesday against either Spain's Fernando Vincente or a qualifier.

In Monday's action Jiri Novak overcame fellow Czech Robin Vik 4-6 6-4 6-4 to set up a second-round clash with British number one Andy Murray.

Novak recovered from a slow start in Tokyo to advance to the last 32 of a tournament the former world number five won in 2004.

The 31-year-old's reward will be a meeting with the 19-year-old Murray, who will be looking to earn points after a first-round exit at last week's Thailand Open.

Murray was beaten in straight sets by fellow Briton Tim Henman in Bangkok, the ninth time this year the young Scot has failed at the first hurdle.

Murray is seeded number four in Tokyo and scheduled to meet Federer in the semifinals of the $765,000 tournament. Henman is seeded 10th in Japan.

The top 16 seeds all received first-round byes.

Swiss Federer and the top seeds are unlikely to play until Wednesday after rain washed out several qualifying matches at the weekend, leaving organizers with a backlog to clear.

More rain is forecast during the week and only the Tokyo venue's centre court has a retractable roof.

Japan's Takao Suzuki won on his return from a serious shoulder injury by thrashing Germany's Simon Greul 6-2 6-2.

The Japanese wildcard plays Asia's top player Paradorn Srichaphan next. The big-serving Thai is seeded number eight.

Denmark's Kenneth Carlsen knocked out Suzuki's compatriot Goichi Motomura with a 6-7 6-3 6-2 win while Argentina's Edgardo Massa overpowered Greek Konstantinos Economidis 6-3 6-1.

There was an early upset in the women's draw when Japan's Akiko Morigami beat third seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia 1-6 6-2 7-6.

But all eyes are on Swiss superstar Federer, with organizers taking the unusual step of even supplying ball boys as he hit with a string of local players in preparation for his first tournament in Japan.

"It was really great fun to have my practice announced officially at 10 a.m. on center court," Federer told reporters.

"I can't remember ever having that. We had ball boys and everything. The only thing missing was the umpire!"

Federer won his third straight U.S. Open last month in a record sixth straight grand slam final appearance but ominously he warned that he was still hungry for more major success.

"I'm only halfway through my career and I have a lot of tennis left," the 25-year-old said.

"My motivation has always been to win grand slams and be number one in the world.

"All of a sudden to lose my motivation while I'm at the top is not something that makes sense."


Federer leaves court after his public practice session in Tokyo.

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