Milos Raonic takes French Open opener in straight sets
Canada's Milos Raonic returns the ball to Australia's Nick Kyrgios during the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP / David Vincent)
Chris Lehourites, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 25, 2014 7:39AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 25, 2014 11:27AM EDT
PARIS -- Milos Raonic hopes his recent success on clay leads to a long run at the French Open.
The Canadian star won his opening match at the second Grand Slam of the year on Sunday, beating Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to reach the second round.
Raonic, the eighth seed from Thornhill, Ont., needed exactly two hours to advance against one of the game's rising young stars. He also beat an Australian opponent for the first time at a Grand Slam after losing to Carsten Ball at the 2010 U.S. Open and Lleyton Hewitt at the 2012 Australian Open.
He won on his third match point, sealing victory with a 27th ace.
Raonic, who came to Roland Garros from a Rome semifinal last weekend, finished with 50 winners and 30 unforced errors, breaking on four of ten chances.
"I felt very good, I was able to do the things I wanted to do," said Raonic, who next plays one of two Czechs, Lukas Rosol of Jiri Vesely.
"In the first round you go in not knowing exactly how things are going to play out. When it mattered, I was able to put forward the right attitude and the right level of tennis. I'm happy with that."
Raonic has a career record of 32-23 on clay courts, compared to 100-42 on hard surfaces that don't deaden his powerful serve. But Raonic had two quarter-final appearances as well as the Rome semifinal in four clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. He's trying to go beyond the third round at Roland Garros for the first time in his career.
Later Sunday, sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Canadian qualifier Peter Polansky of Thornhill 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Polansky, ranked 137th and playing in only his sixth career singles main draw at a major, last played a Grand Slam at the 2010 US Open.
He was successful on only one of six break points while committing 21 unforced errors with 15 winners.
"It's good to be back in the main draw of a slam," said Polansky. "I played well and enjoyed it. I was hoping to get a better draw, there are a lot of guys I could have beaten today.
"I played well, I just came up a it short. But I take a lot of positives out of the last few weeks. Maybe I have more belief in my game now that I'm older."
Raonic said that despite heavy conditions in wet Paris, the courts held up well compared to Rome.
"They're quite similar, though here they can change a little bit more due to the cloud coverage and not really that much sun the last few days," he said. "The ball wasn't bouncing as much as it had actually the last days on the outside courts.
The 23-year-old Raonic used his experience against the young Australian, reducing Kyrgios to racket-hurling frustration after breaking immediately after losing serve in the second set.
Raonic began the third set with a break for 2-0, lost it, but again gained the lead 4-2 on his way to victory.
Raonic said that he was having trouble at times on serve, but managed to fight through the problem.
"I was getting it together when it mattered, and that's all I can really ask," he said. "There was some moments where I was losing a little bit of concentration on my level, and I was able to put it together when I was in the important moments."
After answering on-court questions in French, Raonic then said he would tweet a message in the language later. He said he would have the tweet proofed by an expert speaker before broadcasting it to his 143,000 followers.