SAN JOSE -- At long last, Milos Raonic played his opening match at this year's SAP Open, and clearly the two-time defending champion was ready.
The power-hitting Canadian needed only 63 minutes Thursday night to defeat Michael Russell 6-2, 7-5 and advance to the quarterfinals at HP Pavilion.
Raonic, the top seed, will play Denis Istomin on Friday in a rematch of last year's final, which Raonic won in straight sets.
"I'm definitely comfortable here," said Raonic, who had an opening-round bye. "I made a big emphasis on starting aggressive today. I think I played pretty well."
Raonic's victory followed a day/early evening session in which three matches went a full three sets, none more compelling and dramatic than the last.
More than two hours after it began, third-seeded Sam Querrey finally survived Lleyton Hewitt's upset bid when the Australian double faulted on match point.
Hewitt challenged the call, something he did often in the match. But the ruling stood as Querrey advanced with a 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-6 (4) victory over the former No. 1-ranked player in the world.
The match had many twists and turns as it stretched well into what was supposed to be the first hour of the night session.
Querrey, ranked 20th, started in dominating fashion, overpowering Hewitt to win the first three games with ease. But once Hewitt started to get a read on Querrey's 130-plus mph servers, it was as if the clock rolled back 10 or so
Instead of looking like the 118th-ranked player that he now is, Hewitt, 31, started to resemble the player he was when he outlasted Andre Agassi in a three-set thriller to win the San Jose tournament in 2002.
"Lleyton is so much better than his ranking," Querrey said. "To get through, that makes me feel really good and confident."
Hewitt began dictating the points with his all-out style, giving himself multiple chances to take the first set as the games stretched longer and longer.
But facing two set points in the tiebreaker, Querrey blasted a forehand winner and then Hewitt hit a backhand long to pull even. Querrey won the next two points as well, one on a 136-mph ace, to close out the set.
But Hewitt kept charging, cruising through the second set to force the dramatic conclusion.
"He hits a tough ball," Querrey said, "because it stays so low. It's hard to really attack it and do a lot with it. I stuck with it, won a couple of long points. I thought it was a pretty high-quality match. He served really well. I served well. In the end, a couple of double faults separated the match."
The third set was tight and tense.
It ultimately came down to a tiebreaker, which Querrey started with a 137-mph ace -- his 20th and final one of the match.
The tiebreaker stayed on serve until Hewitt double faulted to trail 4-2. The match ended five points later when Hewitt double faulted again.
The victory was Querrey's first in three matches against Hewitt and continued a recent roll for the 25-year-old American. Querrey is 7-2 this season.
"This is probably my best start to a year in my career," Querrey said.
Earlier Thursday, No. 8 seed Xavier Malisse rallied to defeat Matthew Ebden 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (1), and sixth-seeded Istomin defeated Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
Hours later, Raonic set up the rematch against Istomin, who lost last year's final 7-6 (3), 6-2.
"It's going to be difficult," Raonic said. "He plays well when you really go at him. You stretch him, and he's very good at coming up with big shots in difficult situations. I've got to just stay on top of him."
In the final match Thursday, Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic upset the top-seeded doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4, 6-7 (4), 10-7.