The #NextGenATP of Canada – Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime – bowed out in the first round at the Australian Open. But Milos Raonic, the steady hand of Canadian men’s tennis for the past decade, made sure on Friday night that the country will have a presence in the second week of the season’s first Grand Slam.

The 29-year-old served his way past 2019 semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2) in Margaret Court Arena.

“Today was an incredible match for me,” Raonic said. “I was very happy with how things went. I enjoy the energy of playing on this court and it’s great to be healthy and playing well. I can take a lot of pleasure in this win.”

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The Greek faithful were out in full force for Tsitsipas, belting “Stefanos Tsitsipas, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé”. The thousands of Greeks would come to life when Tsitsipas would even win a point on Raonic’s serve. But over and over again, Raonic quieted the overwhelmingly Greek crowd with his big game.

Not that he faced much trouble on his serve; the Canadian largely took the racquet out of Tsitsipas’ hands.

He was untouchable on serve, firing 19 aces, winning 88 per cent of first-serve points, 58 per cent of second-serve points and never facing a break point. Raonic clubbed 55 winners to the Greek’s 23 and won 70 per cent of his 41 net approaches.

It’s quite difficult. He’s playing forehands from all over the court, and you don’t really know where you should stand exactly, because he’s just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands,” Tsitsipas said. “Serve is great, one of the best in the game. I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. I felt like I was slow. My anticipation was not there.”

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The 32nd-seeded Raonic, who ended 2017 at World No. 3, is through to another fourth round in Melbourne. He’s made at least the quarter-finals in four of past five years.

I have always somehow figured out how to put it together here, especially if I have had the freedom to train well,” Raonic said. “I think when I have had the freedom to really focus on my body, not go from tournament to tournament, focus on training and doing my things well, and allowing myself to get confidence through that work, I have always managed to put things to a pretty presentable level I can be happy with. From there on you’ve got to go out on court, fight, and it worked out well.”

Raonic will next meet 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic for a place in the last eight. Cilic outlasted No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0, 5-7, 6-3 for his first Top 10 win since 2018 US Open (d. No. 10 Goffin).

It’s going to be tough. He’s won two very good matches,” Raonic said. “I’m going to have to focus on my things. I think we’re both going to be trying to move the other guy around, be the one dictating. It’s going to be important for me to get ahead early in the points, take care of my serve and be the aggressor.”

Raonic has struggled with injuries for much of the past two seasons. But he didn’t look bothered by anything – the crowd, any injury or Tsitsipas’ aggressive game. Indeed, the Canadian resembled the player who reached the 2016 Wimbledon final and beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

Through three matches in Melbourne, he’s hit 47 aces, saved the only three break points he’s faced and won nearly 90 per cent of his first-serve points.

I think I have had a sense that tennis could come together if I could put the work in behind it, and I think all those pieces today came together,” Raonic said.



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