Milos Raonic gave himself a mark of ‘B’ after his 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) win over Daniel Gimeno Traver in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday.
“B – I’m happy to have gotten through and that’s the most important thing today,” was his response when asked to rate his performance.
It was not a pretty display from the world No. 8 and his coach Ivan Ljubicic more or less conceded as much as he walked back from the match. “He’s been missing a lot of tennis,” said the Croat, a former world No. 3. “But the serve was there in the end and he found a way to win.”
In fact Raonic has now only played four matches since losing 6-4, 7-5 to Andy Murray in the Madrid quarter-finals on May 8. The following week he had foot surgery and he didn’t play again until two weeks ago when he defeated James Ward and Richard Gasquet at Queen’s Club before losing a tough three-setter to Gilles Simon.
“I just lacked a little bit of intensity and discipline in the right parts of my game,” Raonic said about the patchy match. “I’ve just got to clean up that discipline part of it. That’s just something that comes down to myself.”
The fact that the No. 63-ranked Gimeno Traver has only won two grass-court matches in his career – and none since 2011 – might make it seem that Raonic should have been able to dominate in a more dramatic fashion. But the 29-year-old Spaniard played pretty solid, especially on serve – although there were certainly moments when he was helped by Raonic’s erratic hitting off the ground.
The court didn’t seem particularly fast – and Raonic confirmed that. “Compared with Aorangi (practice courts), it’s quite a bit slower,” he said. “The ball sits up more.”
The grass was in first-day, pristine condition and the setting, with an almost capacity ground of 1,950 in No. 3 Court, was classic Wimbledon – green and populated with bright-coloured, eager tennis fans. “Compared to normally how I feel when I get on these main match courts on the first few days, it’s definitely a bit more gritty than normal,” Raonic said. “There has never been an issue with slipping.”
Ironically, it was on the same court in his second round in 2011 that Raonic did slip and seriously injure his right hip, requiring surgery that basically kept him out of action for three months.
His ninth win (against four losses) at Wimbledon has set up a second-round match-up on Wednesday against Tommy Haas.
The German, 37 years and 100 days old, beat Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on Monday to become the oldest player to win a singles match at Wimbledon since American Jimmy Connors in 1991.
It has been a tough time over the past year for Haas. His 2014 ended at the French Open and he had arthroscopic right shoulder surgery in June and did not resume his career until the grass court event in Stuttgart earlier this month – more than a year later. He beat Mikhail Kukushkin in Stuttgart on his return but since lost to Bernard Tomic in Stuttgart and Andreas Seppi in Halle.
One of the sweetest strikers of the ball in the game – highlighted by a gorgeous one-handed backhand – Haas has many admirers. That includes Raonic who recalls watching him have a good run at Rogers Cup in 2002 when he upset Pete Sampras in the quarter-finals. “It was in the old stadium [before the move in 2004 to the Rexall (now Aviva) Centre],” Raonic recalled. “I remember watching him there. It was nice.”
Since then, he had the opportunity to observe Haas even closer up. That was when they played in the last final of the now-defunct San Jose tournament in 2013 – Raonic won 6-4, 6-3.
Their contrast in styles should make for an interesting encounter – with Raonic using his big-hitting to counter any flashy artistry that the German can bring to the court in his 14th appearance at Wimbledon.
Genie in doubt
Genie Bouchard practiced on Monday under the watchful eye of several observers at Wimbledon’s Aorangi Park courts. She was down on a lower level, behind Rafael Nadal who can be seen in the picture above.
Bouchard had not served since her retirement with an abdominal issue in Eastbourne last Wednesday against Belinda Bencic. But she did hit serves and played points with Timea Bacsinszky on Monday. There was definite rustiness and there will be many questions to be answered when she takes to No. 3 Court on Tuesday as the ‘third match on’ – exactly where Milos Raonic was on Monday.
She will be facing No. 117-ranked Duan Ying-Ying (above) of China, a powerful 24-year-old who has been dubbed the ‘Chinese (Lindsay) Davenport’ because of her size and ability to hit big.
Watching her practice on Sunday, the big hitting wasn’t that obvious but she did move a little better than might be expected of someone 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds.
Bouchard said Saturday that she had never heard of Duan and that she hoped her coach Sam Sumyk would have some scouting info for her. That may have sounded surprising but it was a still three days before the match and she was more consumed with trying to get her body fit enough to play than with worrying about her opposition.
There indeed does seem to be a fair amount of apprehension in the Bouchard camp about how she will manage with her injury – not to mention the lost practice time and the highly-publicized slump that has seen her lose 11 of her last 13 tour matches. Two days of hitting and one day of serving is hardly ideal preparation for an attempt at repeating her phenomenal performance of a year ago when she reached the Wimbledon final and lost to Petra Kvitova.
If Bouchard (above with fans after practice) were to lose and not defend the 1,300 points she earned a year ago as a finalist, a rough calculation would see her current No. 12 ranking tumble to about No. 29.
That seems drastic but the good news in the bad news is that she would still be among the seeded players for the 2015 US Open.
Pospisil early start successful
Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, Wimbledon’s defending champions and third seeds, advanced to the second round of doubles on Monday with a 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-1 victory over Sam Groth of Australia and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.
It was a sketchy first set, with Pospisil having to pull out of a love-40 hole in the opening service game. In the end it came down to the third-set tiebreak. Pospisil and Sock broke the match open when they got consecutive mini-breaks – first with a bullet inside/out forehand winner by Sock to 3-1 and then with a difficult overhead smash winner by Pospisil.
“It was our first doubles match in a while and we just started playing better as the match went on,” Pospisil said. “We won some crucial ‘breakers’ and took the momentum into the fourth set and played a solid match after the first set.”
Groth and Stakhovsky were no pushovers. “I’d say it was one of the tougher first-round draws we could have had,” Pospisil said. “They’re serving big and are serve-and-volleyers in singles, so it was tricky.”
It is unusual for a doubles match to be on the first day, especially for players who have not yet played their singles matches. “I’d spoken to the ATP about it and the logic was just looking forward to not have to double up on a certain day with singles and doubles,” Pospisil said.
“Initially, for me and Stakhovsky – our opponents were resting today and Jack is playing against Sam (in singles) so for them I don’t think it really mattered much – our reaction was not a great one. ‘Why are we playing in the heat and a five-set doubles match before our singles?’ Their explanation was to avoid doubling up later in the week if we do well. There are positives in it too. We can get into the rhythm a little bit and maybe be a bit more relaxed tomorrow (Tuesday) because you already have one match under your belt – even if it’s a doubles match. “Obviously, it would have been worse if we’d played a long five-set match but it was kind of a standard match – it’s wasn’t a short one but not too long either.”
About the concern about the back problem that forced him to retire in Nottingham a week ago, Pospisil said, “I had the issue last week and it was unfortunate because I thought I was playing pretty well. I’m feeling good physically so there shouldn’t be any problems.
“I was worried for sure because I felt a lot of similarities to issues I’d had in the past that ended up being more serious. But it wasn’t the case. It just ended up being a couple of days.”
Questioned as to whether he had any idea what caused it, Pospisil replied, “it was a cold day, cold and windy. It’s tough to speculate. I kind of have an idea. It’s just my body or a complete coincidence because there were a couple of other players that got back spasms as well that week with the conditions.”
Pospisil’s first-round singles opponent on Tuesday is 29-year-old Frenchman Vincent Millot. They have not played on the main tour but Pospisil, though forgetting at first, soon remembered the Futures match they played it Canada in 2009 which he won 6-3, 7-6(14). He said that it was the longest tiebreak he’d ever played and that he had saved seven set points.
Their match is the second on Court 11 after Benoit Paire – Mikhail Youzhny, which starts at 11:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. EDT in Canada).
Dabrowski out in doubles
Gabriela Dabrowski and her Polish partner Alicja Rosolska exited on the opening day of the women’s doubles on Monday. They were beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the No. 9 seeds Casey Dellacqua of Australia and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.
Both sets were close and the Dabrowski – Rosolska duo actually led 2-0 in the second set.
Lleyton Hewitt, champion in 2002, may have said his Wimbledon good-bye on day one of the 2015 event, but there could eventually be another Hewitt male to follow in his footsteps.
Cruz Hewitt, six years old, was eager to get on the court and do a little hitting after his father’s practice one day last week.