Spain's Feliciano Lopez has progressed to the second round of the Cincinnati Masters by beating big serving Canadian Milos Raonic in his first match, 7-6 6-4. Raonic, who has been having a dismal season due to injury since April, appeared rusty and uncomfortable in the match, which Lopez took full advantage of, able to wrap up a smooth and uncomplicated win.
Comfortable Holds In The First Set
Both Raonic and Lopez held serve rapidly and easily in the first few games, with neither able to put many balls into play. Rallies were kept short and there was little movement to switch up the play. The first look-in came to Raonic, who had a break point on Lopez's serve after some sloppy errors from the Spaniard and a roaring return from Raonic. However, Lopez, using his serve to get out of trouble, served three aces in a row to hold and edge ahead 4-3 in the first set. 2 aces and some nice work at the net allowed the Spaniard to hold to love, building his confidence. In the next game, he looked to move his way up the court and hit deep to make Raonic move, which has never been his strength. Despite getting to 15-30, two aces saw Raonic hold serve once more. As the set progressed, both players were using more of the court, and Lopez won some great points by passing Raonic. Both players' serves were too strong though, so inevitably, the set went to a tiebreak.
The first mini-break went to Lopez early in the tiebreak, 2-1, and from then on, Raonic appeared progressively stiffer. He wasn't moving well, and couldn't seem to get many balls back into play. A couple of groundstrokes into the net from the Canadian helped the Spaniard along, and just minutes later, with a fantastic cross court return, Feliciano Lopez wrapped up the first set 7-6, which was in fact a lot more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Raonic called the trainer to get treatment on his lower back in the third game of the second set, which gave us an insight into why he had been moving so poorly. Lopez held his serve with some strategically placed serves out wide that Raonic couldn't get his racket on. A good forehand down the line then gave Milos game point, but a threatening return from the Spaniard sent his opponents service game to deuce. A nice backhand gave him break point, and a forehand that landed at the bottom of the net gifted Lopez the crucial break. 3-2.
Lopez remained in control for the rest of the match, holding easily. Raonic showed some signs of the excellent player he can be with some heavy forehand winners, but it was too little too late. Lopez's reflexes at the net were as solid as always, and he managed to create lots of space. There were no more breaks in the set, so the Spaniard just had to hold a few more times before being able to serve out the match perfectly.
It was a solid performance from Lopez, and a more than sub-par display from Raonic, who was appointed as the next big thing last year. He's had a tough season, as he's endured four three-match losing streaks in the last 12 months. Lopez takes up his spot in the second round and will play Italian Andreas Seppi for a place in the third round.