Milos Raonic and Peter Polansky moved into the second round of the 2018 Rogers Cup on Monday with straight-set wins.
Before rain came mid-afternoon causing a three-hour delay, Polansky had a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over No. 52-ranked Matthew Ebden while Raonic came on the centre court for the evening session and scored an emphatic 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 11 David Goffin.
Playing his first match after tearing a right quad muscle in his Wimbledon quarter-final against John Isner, Raonic was right on the ball right off the hop. He broke Goffin to 3-1 in the opening set and to 2-1 in the second on his way his 11th win versus eight losses at the Rogers Cup.
The only moment of real concern was when he fell behind love-40 serving for the opening set at 5-4. But some huge serving allowed him to win five points in a row, the final one with an ace.
Raonic took 10 days off after Wimbledon to get fit again and then has been practising on court for about two weeks. His remarkably sharp form from the get-go against Goffin continues a trend he has shown this year of being able to play well after an extended period out of competition – in this case 25 days.
“It was a tough first round,” Raonic said after the one hour and 12-minute match. “I wasn’t exactly sure how things were going to go so I’m glad they went the way they did.”
The Raonic serve was immaculate as he was 27/27 when he landed his first one – and that included 13 aces. He saved all three break points he faced.
About that mini-crisis at love-40 in the final game of the opening set, Raonic said, “I was glad he didn’t put any returns in, that’s for sure. It was a tough situation and I’m glad I got through it.”
A measure of the Raonic dominance – he won 64 points to just 42 for his fellow-27-year-old opponent.
In the second round Raonic will play the winner of a Tuesday match between No. 21-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy and No. 41-ranked American Frances Tiafoe.
Raonic is 3-0 versus Cecchinato – winning on clay in Monte Carlo and Rome in 2016 and in Monte Carlo this year – all three matches without losing a set. The 25-year-old Italian was a surprise semi-finalist at the French Open, defeating Novak Djokovic in a four-set thriller in the quarter-finals.
A possible match-up against the 20-year-old Tiafoe would be a first meeting.
The opening round at this year’s Rogers Cup ends in a much happier manner for Raonic than it did in Montreal in 2017. Then he was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by No. 42-ranked Adrian Mannarino of France – a match that he played with a left wrist injury that prohibited him from hitting two-handed backhands. It subsequently required a surgical procedure that kept him out of the US Open.
“I’m happy to be through tonight,” he summed up. “I’m happy with the way things are going and hopefully I can continue to play some good tennis.”
Polansky began Monday ranked No. 121 and ended the opening day of the 2018 Rogers Cup with the very same ranking. Normally that might not seem strange but the 30-year-old from nearby Thornhill, Ont., was defending 45 points from a first-round win over Vasek Pospisil in Montreal a year ago and would have dropped to about No. 129 had he lost.
A crucial juncture in his win was a long, hard-fought game at 3-all in the second set when he was able to hold his serve. While his 30-year-old Aussie opponent in turn held serve to make it 4-all, two games later he was broken to 30 and Polansky had his sixth trip to the second round in 11 appearances at the Rogers Cup.
“It was for sure a key moment in the match,” he said about the seventh game of the second set. “I think if I got broken there, the momentum would have turned just in his favor quite a bit.”
For the second year in a row Polansky may face one of the titans of modern tennis in the second round. A year ago in Montreal he was beaten 6-2, 6-1 by Roger Federer and now on Wednesday he will take on Novak Djokovic – if the Wimbledon champion wins his opening match on Tuesday against No. 23-ranked Hyeon Chung of South Korea. An Australian Open semi-finalist in January, the 22-year old Chung has been out with an ankle injury and has only played two tournaments – going 1-1 in both Atlanta and Washington – since the Masters 1000 clay-court event in Madrid in May.
Polansky’s only previous meeting with Djokovic was in the second round of the 2009 Rogers Cup in Montreal – then he lost 6-4, 7-6(6).
“I think his game style, he’s a little bit better for me,” Polansky said, “compared to when I played Federer second round just because Federer takes the ball so early and really puts a lot of pressure on you.
“I do remember when I played Djokovic, I was able to get into the point, and I was able to construct points the way I wanted to. Obviously he (Djokovic was ranked No. 4 at the time) was a little bit of a different player back then.
“But if he wins, it would be a match that I’m really looking forward to.”
Polansky gained his first ATP point on July 12, 2004 at 16 and two years later in 2006 was beaten in the US Open junior boys final by Dusan Lojda of the Czech Republic.
In recent years it has been a quest for him to accumulate enough ranking points to finally break into the top-100, with his career-best ranking being No. 110 in June of this year.
This week in Toronto, Polansky would need to win both his second round and the round-of-16 to finally crack the top 100.
Just to give an example of what winning a Masters 1000 title can do, and to put things in perspective – if Polansky could win the title at this year’s Rogers Cup he would vault up to a ranking of about No. 27.
In an opening-round doubles match on Monday that was moved to the National Bank Grandstand after the rain delay – Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson defeated Canadian teenagers Felix Auger-Aliassime, 17, and Denis Shapovalov, 19, by the score of 6-3, 6-2.
In singles on Tuesday, Auger-Aliassine will play Lucas Pouille third match in the centre court afternoon session while Shapovalov takes another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in the first match of the evening session.
It was a rough qualifying weekend for Canadian players at the Rogers Cup with only Filip Peliwo in Toronto, and Rebecca Marino and Leylah Annie Fernandez in Montreal, getting through the first round.
Peliwo, 24, had a good opening-round win over No. 56-ranked Malek Jaziri of Tunisia before losing 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 to No. 247-ranked (been injured) Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.
The top seed in the qualifying, No. 58-ranked Ryan Harrison made it to the main draw. In the opening round of qualifying Harrison defeated always-intriguing, fan-favourite Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 7-6(3).
The 29-year-old Latvian, who’s coming back from a left knee issue that hampered him during a four-set loss to Kei Nishikori in the round-of-16 at Wimbledon, had his chances in the second set. He rallied from 3-1 down and forced a tiebreak. Trailing 2-0 in the tiebreak, the No. 129-ranked Gulbis engaged in a rambling, scrambling rally with Harrison that he eventually topped off with a winning drop
shot. That should have inspired him but he then proceeded to hit consecutive double faults, effectively ending his hopes.
In Montreal, Marino scored the best win of her comeback – defeating No. 69-ranked Vera Lapko of Belarus 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of qualifying. In the second, she was beaten 7-5, 6-4 by No. 53-ranked Qiang Wang of China, winner of the WTA International Series event in Nanchang, China, last month.
Fernandez, just 15, won her opening round 6-3, 6-2 over Alicja Rosolska of Poland, the No. 30-ranked doubles player who has no singles ranking, before losing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to No. 118 Katie Boulter, 21, of Great Britain.
Marino, 27, now ranks No. 310 while Fernandez is No. 730.
About 1,100 Canadian tennis supporters gathered at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Sunday to fete doubles maestro Daniel Nestor.
Probably the highlight of the night was some no-punches-pulled repartee among Nestor – giving as good as he got – and his fellow Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic.
John Isner and Novak Djokovic (pictured above) also took shots at Nestor – some good-natured, some a little edgy.
The evening, ably hosted by comedian Shaun Majumber, also included a little roasting by three-time world champion figure skater Elvis Stojko and Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros.
Nestor’s actual induction into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame was done by Grant Connell from Vancouver. The former ATP No. 1 in doubles and three-time Wimbledon doubles runner-up, found nice balance between humour and respect in presenting Nestor to the Roy Thomson Hall audience.
There was also an excellent video of the 45-year-old’s career, with the evening winding up in a detailed and emotional speech by Nestor, who choked up several times when talking about family – brother Alex, parents Anna and Ray, wife Natasha and daughters Tiana and Bianca.
In the doubles event at the Rogers Cup alongside Pospisil, he is slated to play his last match when Canada faces the Netherlands in Davis Cup from September 14-16 in Toronto. That’s 10 days after his 46th birthday on September 4.