Playing for the first time since Wimbledon, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic were back in the winner’s circle. After both Canadians received byes into the second-round in Washington, they each advanced by downing a couple of Americans on Wednesday.
Auger-Aliassime started things off by edging Reilly Opelka 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in their first-ever professional meeting. All before Raonic laid claim to the court by cruising to a 6-1, 6-4 straight sets win over qualifier Tim Smyczek.
— Citi Open (@CitiOpen) July 31, 2019
It wasn’t the easiest of second-round matches for FAA. Opelka was fresh off a strong showing in Atlanta last week. The 21 year old American defeated top-seed John Isner before ultimately falling in the semis to the eventual champion, Alex de Minaur.
However, the young Canadian was undeterred from the get-go. He got off to a strong start by scoring a break to jump in front 3-2. From there, Auger-Aliassime leaned on his serve. He won 17 of 18 first-service points to close out the set.
Félix Auger-Aliassime brings some of his best returning to the final game of the match to complete a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over American ace Reilly Opelka at the #CO19.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) July 31, 2019
Then, having lost the second set, the 18 year old from Montreal fought back. Despite struggling at times on serve, the Canadian didn’t give up a break point in the third set. Something his American counterpart couldn’t do at a crucial time. With Félix leading 5-4 and holding an opportunity to win the match with break point, the World No. 22 was able to secure victory thanks to an unforced error from Opelka. Overall, FAA won 89 per cent of his first-serve points in the match.
By scoring his first career victory over the 6-foot-11 Opelka, the No.9-seeded Canadian sets up another tough test in Washington. He’ll now face the No.6-seed and the 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the third round.
— John Horn (@SportsHorn) July 31, 2019
Once that match was done, Milos Raonic went to work. In typical fashion, the Maple Leaf Missile was absolutely dominant on serve. He tallied 16 aces, dropping just two first-service points throughout the match (26/28).
In the opening set, with things tied at 1, the 28 year old from Thornhill went on a run – winning five straight games to take the set handily. Smyczek did his best to rally. He grabbed an 4-2 lead in the second set by scoring his first and only break point of the match. But that’s as close as the American qualifier would get. As Raonic won four games in a row, while converting two of six break points to close out the match in straight sets.
The No. 8-seeded Canadian will next face lucky loser Peter Gojowczyk, after the German upset Atlanta Open champion Alex de Minaur 6=3, 7-6 (6).
(Photo: Chad Lominick)