Milos Raonic Is Soaking Up The Special Moments In Toronto

Milos Raonic (photo: Peter Power/Tennis Canada)

TORONTO/WASHINGTON, August 10, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

After Milos Raonic pulled off an upset of American Frances Tiafoe, 6-7 (12), 7-6 (4), 6-3, in an epic opening night match at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto Monday night, the 32-year-old Canadian soaked in the moment. He was truly appreciative that he got to share it with his parents among the packed crowd that filled Sobeys Stadium.

“It doesn’t matter how much you do the right things,” the 545th-ranked Raonic said after striking 37 aces during his two hour, 44-minute first-round victory over the ninth-ranked Tiafoe that was high on excitement and filled with drama. “You never know when things will click and things come together for you. For me, it’s incredibly special for it to be here.”

Raonic, who received a wild-card entry into the main draw after not competing on the ATP Tour between July 2021 and June 2023 due to a variety of injuries, has indicated he’s not sure if this week’s Masters 1000 event in Toronto will be his last in Canada. However, he’s making the most of his opportunity.

On Wednesday afternoon, Raonic backed up his surprising result against Tiafoe by powering his way past 115th-ranked qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan, 6-4, 6-3. He hit 42 winners – including 15 aces – during his 90-minute victory that advanced him into the third round. He did not face any break points on his serve, and now the 6-foot-5 Canadian born in Podgorica, Montenegro has put together consecutive wins at home for the first time since 2016 and back-to-back tour-level victories for the first time since 2021 at Miami.

“[The Tiafoe] match was difficult physically, emotionally on Monday,” Raonic said in his post-match press conference on Wednesday. “So, to come back today and play a pretty clean match, it counts. It makes a difference today. It will make a difference for tomorrow, as well, so that’s something to be happy about.”

Next, Raonic will face Mackenzie McDonald of the United States after the 59th-ranked American eliminated sixth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-4, 6-3, behind 21 winners for his fourth Top 10 win.

Alcaraz beats Shelton in first outing since Wimbledon

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain won his first match since capturing the Wimbledon Championships title last month. The top seed beat No. 41 Ben Shelton of the United States, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in a battle of #NextGenATP stars for his 13th straight victory dating back to his run at Queen’s Club. Alcaraz has won six ATP Tour titles this season.

“I tried to play my level but it wasn’t easy,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. It was his 18th win in 20 Masters 1000 matches this season. “He was more aggressive than me from the beginning to the last ball. I tried to be solid and to get my rhythm and I’m really happy to be through to have an opportunity in the next round.

“This match will help me to be more focussed in the next round, to put my game first in the beginning of the match.”

Next, Alcaraz will play No. 15 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. Hurkacz came from a set down to beat No. 44 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, in back of 25 service aces.

Monfils magical in upset of Tsitsipas

Gaël Monfils garnered his 350th career tour-level hard-court win in his 6-4, 6-3 upset of fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece Wednesday afternoon. The 276th-ranked Frenchman, who was playing in just his 11th match of the season after recovering from injuries, converted three of six break points en route to his one-hour, 26-minute victory over the recent Los Cabos champion.

It was the 36-year-old Monfils’s first win against a Top 5 opponent since his upset of then-World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev at Indian Wells last year. He has now compiled 35 career wins against Top 10 competition.

“I knew that Stef had a lot of confidence,” Monfils said afterward. “He would try to go for his shots. I tried to put a lot of balls in, tried to hit quite heavy and not let him dictate too much. I think I did it well.”

A two-time Canadian Masters semifinalist, Monfils will next play 62nd-ranked lucky loser Aleksandar Vukic of Australia, who upset No. 32 Sebastian Korda of the United States, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5).

Also advancing to the third round of the Masters 1000 event:

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia defeated 66th-ranked Italian qualifier Matteo Arnaldi, 6-2, 7-5 to advance against No. 16 Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who beat qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, ranked 86th, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

American qualifier Marcos Giron, ranked 70th, earned the biggest win of his career by stunning World No. 6 Holger Rune of Denmark Holger Rune, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. The 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA took full advantage of 50 unforced errors by the fifth-seeded Rune. It was just Giron’s second Top 10 win in 17 tries. Next, he will meet fellow American Tommy Paul. The 12th seed advanced  over 22nd-ranked Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-3.

No. 7 seed Jannik Sinner won an all-Italian battle with No. 38 Matteo Berrettini, 6-4, 6-3, in 90 minutes by hitting 10 aces and 22 winners. Sinner outpointed Berrettini 62-51 to remain undefeated (9-0) against his countrymen. Next, Sinner will face No. 40 Andy Murray of Great Britain, who gutted out a 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-5 victory over No. 78 Max Purcell of Australia in two hours and 47 minutes. Sinner and Murray have previously split two matches, both on hard courts.

Eighth-seeded American Taylor Fritz triumphed over No. 34 Ugo Humbert of France, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, after two hours and 30 minutes to improve to 28-7 on hard courts this season. Next, he will play No. 18 Alex de Minaur of Australia, who defeated 141st-ranked wild card Gabriel Diallo of Canada, 6-4, 7-5, a day after Diallo earned his first career tour-level win against DC Open champion Daniel Evans.

No. 37 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain upset No. 13 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, 6-1, 6-2, to advance against No. 3 seed Casper Ruud of Norway.

Around the National Bank Open

Following his 7-6 (6), 6-4 second-round victory over Czech Jiri Lehecka Tuesday evening, No. 3 Casper Ruud of Norway took time to meticulously draw a Canadian maple leaf on the camera lens.

By the numbers

World No. 545 Milos Raonic is the fourth-lowest player by Pepperstone ATP Ranking to reach the round of 16 in ATP Masters 1000 history (since 1990).

“Quotable …”

“I feel like my team, my wife, everybody wants me to keep playing. But to be honest, you know, when I spend time at home at home with my daughter, this is it. It’s been 20 years I’m doing that, so this is it for me.

“My wife is still young. She can compete for many years. So, that’s why I told her it’s way different where I’m at now. I love the game, so that drives me to motivate me to practice and then go away. But to be honest, home is great, too.”

Gaël Monfils of France, who is married to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and is the father of a baby daughter, Skaï. He is through to the third round after securing wins over Christopher Eubanks and No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.