Milos Raonic follows through on a shot.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

by Jonathan Yue

Milos Raonic had to wait a long time to make his return to the All-England Club, but it was worth it.

After rain delayed much of Tuesday’s action at Wimbledon, Milos Raonic made his long-anticipated return to the grass courts of the All-England Club on Wednesday morning.

Denis Shapovalov also had to wait to book his place in the second round, completing a comeback two days after his first-round match began.

Taking the court at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, Raonic kicked off a busy day for the Canadian contingent with a four-set victory over Dennis Novak, 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1.

The two had faced off once before today’s match, also a Raonic victory at the 2018 Wimbledon in the round of 32. It did not take long for the 2016 Wimbledon finalist to get comfortable on Court 16, as Raonic won his first two games at love by bringing his signature heavy serve against his Austrian opponent.

With Raonic facing a break point at 3-3, the rain returned for yet another delay, lasting just over an hour before play briefly resumed. It didn’t last long as the rain returned at 4-4 to suspend play for a second time in the match.

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Coming out of the break, the Canadian continued his service dominance, winning five straight points on his own serve, leading into a tiebreak. With both players going for their big forehands, it was Novak who took advantage of a mini break to take the first set 7-6(5).

Raonic got the jump early in the second set, converting his first break point to take a 1-0 lead on Novak’s serve. That early break was the difference as Canadian recorded eight of his 27 aces in the match, losing only six points on his serve, to even the match with a 6-4 second set.

Much like the second, Raonic leaned into his strong service game. With neither player giving anything up on their serves, the third set required a tiebreak. This time, it was the Canadian showing the aggression in his forehand while attacking the net, paying off with a 7-6 (5) third set.

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With a break in Novak’s serve to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, Raonic would not let the opportunity pass as he was in his stride, serving out the rest of the match with another five aces and a second break to comfortably take the set 6-1 and move onto the second round.

The 32-year-old Canadian awaits the winner of Shintaro Mochizuki and Tommy Paul in the second round.

Shapovalov overcomes rain and deficit to advance

No. 26 seed Denis Shapovalov was supposed to close out Day 1 at Wimbledon for the Canadians but after two rain delays, the 24-year-old Canadian finally wrapped up his first-round match against Radu Albot of Moldova.

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The first-round matchup was their third match against each other, with the pair splitting their first two meetings. The Canadian took the previous match in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in Seoul last year and was looking to build on that victory at Wimbledon.

It was not the prettiest win, but Shapovalov fought off the rain and an early deficit to move on to the second round of Wimbledon after a four-set 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over Albot.

Starting off the match just before 8:00 p.m. local time on Monday, Shapovalov brought the firepower to the court with precision in his serves, starting the match by winning all 12 of his first service points and going 4/4 when attacking from the net up to take a 5-4 lead. But the Moldovan was patient, breaking the Canadian before serving out the first set 7-5.

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With the sun quickly setting, they traded break points to sit tied at 2-2. That would be the end of the day on Court 14 as the umpire called the play off until day two.

After the outdoor courts were closed off on Tuesday due to the rain, Shapovalov and Albot both returned to the court on Wednesday.

Resuming their shot-for-shot match, Shapovalov finally found a window of opportunity at 5-4, attacking the Moldovan’s serve before forcing Albot’s forehand wide, giving the Canadian the equalizing 6-4 second-set win.

With the momentum on his side heading into the third set, Shapovalov held his own serve before forcing the break against the Moldovan for an early 3-0 lead. From there, the Canadian gained confidence with each winner, comfortably earning the 6-2 third set.  

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The 33-year-old Moldovan put up a fight in the fourth set, but Shapovalov was able to attack Albot’s second serve to break with clean ground strokes and take a 3-1 lead. With the court 12 crowd behind the Canadian, Shapovalov completed the come-from-behind victory, closing out the fourth set 6-2 to advance to the second round.  

France’s Gregoire Barrere is up next for Shapovalov as Canada now has two men moving onto the second round, joining Raonic. On the women’s side, Rebecca Marino looks to join Leylah Annie Fernandez in the second round later on Wednesday. Carol Zhao lost her opening match, while Bianca Andreescu was delayed again until Thursday.