Milos Raonic and Félix Auger-Aliassime both kicked off their grass-court seasons with victories in Stuttgart on Tuesday.
Raonic, playing in his first match since March, rallied from behind to defeat Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(4). Less than an hour later, Auger-Aliassime won his first-ever pro match on grass by dispatching Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
Both players were making their returns to the court after missing the French Open due to injury.
Milos hadn’t played a competitive match since the Miami Open. And early on, rust might have been a bit of a factor for the Canadian. After scoring an early mini-break in the first-set tiebreak, Raonic failed to convert three-straight set points. The missed opportunities were part of a stretch where Popyrin scored five-straight points to take the opening set.
But from that point on, Raonic wasn’t going to be denied. He notched 20 of his 31 aces over the final two sets, and won 47 of his 50 first-service points to propel himself past his Australian opponent.
Elsewhere, Félix was also dominant on serve in Stuttgart’s opening round. The Montreal native won 86% of his first-serve points, including 16 of 17 in the second set. He also made sure to make the most of his chances – converting two of his five break-point opportunities.
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Auger-Aliassime’s win against former top-10 player, Gulbis, was his first since pulling out of Roland-Garros with a hip injury. The 18 year old also hadn’t played on grass professionally before Tuesday. The last time he competed on this surface, he suffered a quarter-final defeat to Australia’s Alex de Minaur at the Wimbledon juniors in 2016.
Next up, Félix will next face France’s Gilles Simon. While, Raonic will need to be sharp when he faces Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round.
One Canadian who unfortunately won’t be joining them is Denis Shapovalov. The 20 year old lost in his first-round match in Stuttgart to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 5-7, 4-6. It was the third time in two months that Denis has suffered a defeat at the hands of the 29-year-old German. Shapovalov will look to bounce-back when he plays at the Queen’s Club Championships, which are scheduled to start on June 17th.
Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour