Milos Raonic got off to a slightly hesitant start but once he got going it was basically a man against a boy in his 7-5, 6-0, 6-1 victory over No. 173-ranked British wild card Liam Broady at Wimbledon on Monday.
The 6-foot-5 world No. 32 was simply overwhelming as he won 14 of 15 games from 5-all in the first set, totally outclassing the 24-year-old Briton.
Raonic hit 18 aces and won 89 per cent of his first serve points and Broady was flummoxed by the brute power – regularly over 130 mph – of his blasts.
“Like it’s pretty crazy,’ Broady said about facing the Raonic serve. “The first game I was almost just looking at the ball bouncing against the back fence. ‘What’s just happened there?’
“And then I started to get my racquet on the ball a bit. It’s just so hard to control. It’s moving so fast, the heat on the ball is crazy. I was looking up at my box, like, ‘I don’t really know what to do down here, because he’s going huge on the first serve.’ Usually I look to do a bit off the second serve and stand in maybe sometimes. There is not really much chance. I’m playing against two first serves.”
Broady had zero break points while Raonic converted on six of 11 opportunities in his runaway win.
“I did a lot of things well,” said the tournament No. 13 seed. “Obviously I expected to be tight the first set. I needed a moment just to free up once I got that break. He got a little bit tight on that 5-6 game, and after that I freed up and I thought I played really well.”
Interestingly both Raonic and Broady used the term “freed up” to describe how Raonic was able to loosen and really let his game flow in the second and third sets.
Tracking back to his appearance in junior Wimbledon, Raonic now has close to 10 years experience playing on grass. Asked about that he said, “I think the last four years I really just know what I need to do from the first practice. It’s not like I’m sort of second-guessing. I might feel uncomfortable doing it because you’re just coming off clay where it’s quite different in that sense. But I know exactly, ‘hey this is how I need to hit the ball.’”
Next for Raonic in the second round on Wednesday will be No. 56-ranked John Millman of Australia, a 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 winner over No. 137-ranked Italian qualifier Stefano Travaglia on Monday.
Raonic has not played Millman but said he was familiar with his game. On paper, the 29-year-old from Brisbane does not have enough heft to compete with a fit and healthy Raonic – and he said in a BBC TV post-match interview that he feels “fantastic.”
So fantastic that he did not wear the white (mid-calf) leggings that he had on in practice over the weekend. He had said that he wore the leggings to warm up his (right) knee and keep it warm.
“I didn’t need them,” was his simple explanation for why he didn’t have them on Monday.
About whether he would be allowed to wear them by Wimbledon officials, Raonic answered, “I haven’t asked but I don’t think it’s an issue. Nobody’s told me anything different.”
Peter Polansky was the other Canadian in action on Monday – on the Court 5 visible in the centre of the picture at top here – and his first career appearance at Wimbledon turned out to be one he would prefer to forget.
He was beaten 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(7) by No. 171-ranked qualifier Dennis Novak of Austria. The match was pretty well as one-sided as the score suggests – except that Polansky had three set points in the third-set tiebreak to extend it into a fourth set but didn’t play them well.
“It was a disaster today,” he summed up about a subpar performance. “It’s not even that I lost, not even the score but…I just couldn’t find my game.
“It’s a little disappointing going out there the first time and not being comfortable, not hitting those shots I really like hitting, going after the ball and playing some good tennis regardless of the score even if I’d lost 0 and 0. Had I gone out there and played the way I wanted to it would have been a little bit different.
“It was tough. There were a few conditions that weren’t in my favour. It was a little bit windy – that was for both of us – his ball was a little bit different going through the court more than some guys I’d previously played – his balls are really flat. The grass here is a little bit longer so the ball stays really low. So maybe a combination of all those factors threw me off. I was trying really hard to find my game at some point but I couldn’t really do it. I almost found it at the end. I had a couple of (third set) set points but even on those sets points the level of tennis was just terrible.”
He had 18 winners and 19 unforced errors for the match, compared with 34 winners and 23 unforced errors for Novak.
Polansky will now move on to play National Bank Challenger events in Winnipeg, Gatineau, Que., and Granby, Que. He was runner-up at all three a year ago.
Ranked No. 110 at the moment, the 30-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., continues his quest to finally break the top-100 barrier.
Asked about it, he said, “am I obsessed with it? – no not really. I think I needed to win two rounds here but…I know I’m close. It’s obviously a big goal for everyone and now it’s late in my career. So I’d really like to achieve that. But at the same time I know I have a lot of points to defend but I do feel really good about my tennis game the last couple of months. I’ve been playing well – good matches against good players and feeling good to carry that through the summer. We’ll see. I lost in the final of all of those tournaments and, if I can win one, my points will catch up really quickly.”
Three Canadians will make their 2018 Wimbledon debuts on Tuesday – but one of them is still uncertain about which court he will play on.
Genie Bouchard, second match (after 11:30 a.m.) on Court 14 vs. British wild card Gabrielle Taylor and Vasek Pospisil, third match on Court 4 vs. Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, are locks. But Denis Shapovalov vs. Jeremy Chardy of France is listed in “MATCHES TO BE ARRANGED – NOT BEFORE 17:00.” Basically that means that organizers hope that Shapovalov – Chardy will fit into one of the bigger show-courts if the preceding matches go quickly and they can start it sometime after 5 p.m.
It will be a first meeting for the No. 25-ranked Shapovalov and No. 46-ranked Frenchman. But Chardy is certainly more the form player after winning the Surbiton Challenger (5-0), losing the s’Hertogenbosch final to Richard Gasquet (4-1) and getting to the Queen’s Club semi-finals (3-1) before losing to Novak Djokovic. Shapovalov has only won a single match – 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 over No. 54-ranked Jared Donaldson in Eastbourne last week – making his record 1-3 compared to Chardy’s 12-2 at pre-Wimbledon events.
“Normally I’ve been the underdog and recently that’s flipped a little bit,” Shapovalov said on Sunday. “I’ve been the favourite to win at the last couple of tournaments – and I’ve had some tough draws against some good grass-court players. I feel like this week it’s not the case. Chardy has been playing better than me on grass and the results prove it. I’m going out there with nothing to lose and normally I play well under those circumstances.”
His only previous Wimbledon match was on Court 7 – a four-set loss to Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in the first round 12 months ago. It will be interesting to see where he and Chardy, a resident in London with his English wife since April, will end up playing on Tuesday.
Genie Bouchard (above with physio Scott Brynes of Australia) knows where she will be against the 20-year-old Taylor – on Court 14 with seating for only 324. That could result in some pretty serious crowding considering the popularity of the 24-year-old Montrealer.
Bouchard, ranked No. 188, played like a player far superior to that in winning three rounds of qualifying last week. “I have had matches and that’s what I need now,” she said on Sunday, “lots of matches because I was hurt. I’m happy I qualified but all I want to do is play. So I’ve got my chance to play this week.”
She isn’t familiar with the No. 180-ranked Taylor, who’s playing her first Grand Slam event – Bouchard is playing her 20th .
“I don’t know her,” Bouchard said about Taylor. “My coaches will try to find information on her.”
Vasek Pospisil will face the No. 77-ranked Kukushkin for the fourth time – with the 30-year-old Kazakh leading their head-to-head 2-1.
Currently No. 97, Pospisil hurt his shoulder in the doubles at Roland Garros and is 0-2 at grass-court events this season – losing to No. 176 Alex Bolt of Australia in s’Hertogenbosch and to No. 159 Matthias Bachinger of Germany in the Halle qualifying.
He was scheduled to play the grass-court ATP 250 in Antalya, Turkey, last week but felt he could use some rest and just wanted to practice. There was also the fact that Antalya can be very hot and those are not conditions Pospisil excels in.
There are several clever caricatures of well known Wimbledon champions in the windows of Hemingways pub in Wimbledon Village. It’s hardly necessary to identify the player shown here.