Raonic flattens Lu at South Africa Open

Johannesburg: Asian tennis star Yen-Hsun Lu from Taiwan crashed out of the South Africa Open in the opening round after a 6-3, 6-3 defeat by Canadian Milos Raonic.

Seeded second for the ATP event behind Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, Lu had no answer to the serves of the 1.96-metre native of Montenegro that whistled through the high-altitude air at speeds of more than 230 kilometres per hour.

Raonic, who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne this month before bowing to eventual semi-finalist David Ferrer from Spain, broke service twice in succession to win the first set.

A single break was sufficient to clinch the second set and a 72-minute match staged in pleasant, partly cloudy conditions which gave way to rain that forced play to be abandoned ahead of the evening schedule.

"I played well today and always felt confident that I would win. It helped that I was involved in the qualifying competition because those two ganes got me used to the altitude," said Raonic.

"Reaching the fourth round in Australia was something to be proud of, especially eliminating two seeds before David beat me, but that is history and my focus is on going far in Johannesburg."

The Raonic `fan club` includes Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal, who recently told the highest ranked Canadian on the ATP circuit that "you can become a very good player".

Lu is ranked 37 in the world -- 57 places above Raonic -- but that was never evident at the Tuscan-style Montecasino entertainment centre in a plush northern suburb of the South African financial capital.

While the youngest competitor in the tournament at 20 years and one month won his service games with ease, Lu constantly battled to hold serve and never looking like breaking Raonic.

As the Canadian gave a service display that suggested he could go far in the 442,500-dollar championship, the man from Taoyuan county who ousted British star Andy Murray at the 2008 Beijing Olympics struggled with his first serve.

Raonic, whose backhand slice and forehand were other impressive parts of his arsenal, faces German Simon Greul for a place in the quarter-finals of a tournament won last year by world number 31 Lopez.

Heart throb Lopez was due to face Canadian Frank Dancevic in the feature centre-court match of the evening sassion, but persistent rain delayed the start of his title defence.

Frenchman Stephane Robert, a surprise finalist in Johannesburg last year with Ferrer among his victims, was outplayed when falling 6-3, 6-2 to South African Izak van der Merwe.

Others to reach the last 16 included seeds Kevin Anderson of South Africa, Adrian Mannarino of France and Michal Przysiezny of Poland plus Germans Dustin Brown and Denis Gremelmayr.

Bureau Report

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