Rising star Raonic advances at Indian Wells
California: Milos Raonic is soaring up the world tennis rankings faster than his 150-mph serve.
The 20-year-old Canadian hammered 10 aces and used his thundering forehand to overpower Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in his opening match at the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt event on Friday.
“I feel good. I feel like I played a lot better on Saturday,” Raonic said. “My goal is to keep getting better and better and improving.”
Raonic unleashed a 148-mph (238-kmh) ace in the second game of the second set against Ilhan in front of a crowd of 5,000 on an outer court.
He also had 140-mph and 138-mph serves in the final game of the first set but said he wasn’t entirely happy with the way he was serving Friday.
“I didn’t feel like I served all that well on Saturday,” he said. “I have been working on improving my second serve.”
Raonic hit one second serve early in the match that kicked up so high Ilhan had to use an overhead smash to get it back.
Raonic advances to the second round, where he will face American Mardy Fish, whom Raonic beat last month in the ATP Memphis semi-finals before going on to lose to Andy Roddick in the final.
“I look forward to it,” Raonic said of meeting Fish again so soon. “I feel like I am playing well from the back. If I keep this up good things will come.”
Raonic broke Ilhan for the first time in the third game of the first set then the clinched the match with an ace in the second set tiebreaker.
The former Canadian junior champion has rocketted up the world rankings, going from 156th at the end of last year to a Canadian record No. 37.
Last month he became the first Canadian to win an ATP Tour title since Greg Rusedski won in Seoul in April 1995.
Before the match, he was introduced to loud cheers from the crowd which included many of his countrymen, escaping the cold Canadian winters by spending their summers in the California desert.
There were a number of Canadian flags in the crowd and even a red and white replica jersey of the Canada’s Olympic gold medal winning hockey team draped over one railing.
“I don’t look up above the sponsors’ board when I am playing,” Raonic said. “But people were coming up to me after my match saying they came from Canada to watch me play. I want to be an ambassador for my country.”
In other early matches Friday defending women’s champion Jelena Jankovic crushed American Coco Vandeweghe 6-2, 6-1, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 7-5 and Pablo Cuevas won the battle of the Pablos by beating Pablo Andujar of Spain 7-5, 6-3.