Canada's Raonic eliminated from Rogers Cup after quarter-final loss to Lopez
Friday, Aug 08, 2014 04:00 am
TORONTO - Canada's Milos Raonic boasts one of the strongest power games on the men's tennis tour.
On Friday night, his game was undone by an unseeded opponent who picked his style apart.
Spain's Feliciano Lopez eliminated Raonic from the Rogers Cup with a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 quarter-final victory in front of a surprised crowd at Rexall Centre. Raonic, the No. 6 seed from Thornhill, Ont., struggled early and was hampered by unforced errors on the stadium showcourt.
Raonic hung in there despite his inconsistency but couldn't convert one of the nine break point opportunities he had in a pivotal 12-minute game midway through the deciding set. Lopez later picked up a break before closing out the win.
"I just need to show in a few situations more courage and go for it a little bit more," Raonic said. "Not just that third set but all throughout the match."
Raonic's trademark rocket serve was still a weapon but his rhythm on the baseline was affected by Lopez's unique style. The crafty left-handed Spaniard mixed things up with cut shots, chip-and-chase strokes and a nice variety of drops and lobs.
The change in pace seemed to handcuff Raonic at times. His ground strokes were still powerful but they were weakened when Lopez forced the Canadian wider on court or made him change his approach.
The Spaniard said he went heavy on his second serves and was fortunate to hang in there in the third set.
"I mean to save nine break points in the same game even though I played great (for) most of them I have to get a little bit lucky," Lopez said.
He completed the victory in one hour 57 minutes to quiet the vocal near-capacity crowd.
"Two mistakes, one break and that's it. This is tennis," Lopez said.
Lopez will play Roger Federer of Switzerland in the semifinals on Saturday. The second-seeded Swiss star defeated No. 5 David Ferrer of Spain 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the late quarter-final.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France also reached the final four with a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Britain's Andy Murray. Tsonga will meet seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who outlasted South Africa's Kevin Anderson 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (6).
Raonic relied on his powerful ground strokes but the results were mixed as he sprayed a number of shots and had several mishits.
The 23-year-old right-hander didn't hide his frustration.
At 2-2 and with serve in the opening set, Raonic shouted out in frustration after dropping the first two points of the game. His next shot went long and another mishit gave Lopez the first service break of the match.
Raonic threw an exasperated look at his coach at the changeover and couldn't pull even, with Lopez sealing the set with an overhead smash.
The Canadian came out strong in the second set by taking the first five points. He was still having trouble with the spin on some of Lopez's shots but the pace of the match started to open up with longer rallies.
The players went back and forth with mini-breaks in the tiebreaker. Raonic converted his first set point when Lopez fired a ball long as he tripped while approaching the net.
The Spaniard landed awkwardly on his wrist and could be seen trying to loosen it up before the third set. It apparently wasn't a bother as Lopez was steady on serve and consistent down the stretch.
"He did a good job," Raonic said. "He stepped up and played well in the important moments, especially on his service game."
Earlier, the 13th-seeded Tsonga picked up his second straight upset victory by knocking off the eighth-seeded Murray, who had won nine of 10 previous meetings against the Frenchman. Tsonga was coming off a convincing win over top-seeded Novak Djokovic.
"This week is kind of rewards for me," Tsonga said. "To play like this, to beat two guys in the top 10. It's good and I hope it will continue."
Tsonga, who had an 18-7 edge in aces over Murray, won 83 per cent of points when his first serve was in.
"I was able to serve maybe 220 (km/h) all match and for me it's something great when I'm serving like this," Tsonga said. "I'm able to play good tennis."
Murray said it was a much faster-paced match than his tournament opener against Nick Kyrgios. The two-time Rogers Cup champ had reached the quarter-finals on a walkover when Richard Gasquet withdrew due to an abdominal injury.
"Jo is a top player, he's a fantastic athlete," Murray said. "When his game is on, he's very tough to beat."
In men's doubles play, the third-seeded team of Toronto's Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia advanced with a 2-6, 6-3, 14-12 win over No. 5 Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.
No. 4 Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil beat seventh-seeded Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. The second-seeded duo of Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil defeated Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Romania's Horia Tecau 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Federer was the highest-seeded player left in the singles draw after three of the top four seeds were eliminated Thursday. He improved to 15-0 lifetime against Ferrer.
Raonic, meanwhile, was coming off a tournament victory last weekend in Washington and fell to 2-2 against Lopez.
He has six career wins on the ATP Tour but is still looking for his first Masters 1000 title. All three of his matches were three-set affairs at the US$3.78-million tournament.
His focus now turns to the next hardcourt warmup event in Ohio ahead of the U.S. Open.
"I'm competing well and fighting well and I know I can play much better tennis," Raonic said. "The goal has always been get better each week to be playing my best tennis in New York, and that's what I'm most looking forward to.
"Cincinnati is the next step to getting better."
Raonic reached the final at last year's Rogers Cup in Montreal before losing to Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard is not back to defend his title due to a wrist injury.
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