Milos Raonic was forced to fight down to the last point in his second round match against clay court specialist Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday, narrowly edging the Uruguayan 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(5) in an epic contest at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.
Raonic roars back for opening set
Cuevas wasted no time putting pressure on the Raonic serve, reaching break point in the Canadian’s second service game. Two opportunities were missed before Cuevas converted the third to grab an early break lead. In the early stages, it was the Uruguayan who was out-serving the Missile. Through his first three service games, he only lost one point on serve. But in his fourth service game, the level dropped and Raonic finally broke through to level the set.
Cuevas tried to keep up the pressure on the Canadian, racing to a 0-30 lead in the next game, but Raonic won four straight points to hold serve for a 5-4 lead. The world number 25 stopped his opponents three-game run to hold for 5-5. After another hold by the 10th seed, Cuevas found himself down set point at 5-6, 30-40. Raonic took advantage of his opportunity, converting the set point to claim the opening set after winning five of the last six games.
Cuevas dominates to force decider
Cuevas had worn out as the first set went on, so he knew he needed another fast start to break Raonic’s momentum quickly. He managed just that, breaking for an immediate 1-0 lead. It appeared that the Uruguayan had solved rival’s huge serve when he broke for a second time, following it with a hold to stretch his lead to 4-0. Raonic finally got on the board at 1-4, and then turned his attention to reclaiming the breaks. In the following game, he held multiple break points to close the gap, but could not convert any of them. It would prove to be his last chance, as the remainder of the set went with serve and the match headed to a decider.
Raonic holds nerve to claim tight victory
At long last, things appeared to be going better for the Canadian as he held his first few service games, stopping Cuevas’ s momentum early. Everything seemed to be going right for the Canadian as he grabbed the first break of the set. However, the Uruguayan had had a good read on the Missile’s serve all day and soon reclaimed the break.
A series of tense games arrived at the end of the set, with both players knowing a point the wrong way and the match would be over. At 4-4, Raonic faced an onslaught against his serve and was forced to save multiple break points, although he was up to the challenge and held to force Cuevas to serve to stay alive. The world number 25 did just that, although he had to save several match points in the process.
The two men held their final service games, meaning this epic match would be decided in a tiebreak. It was the underdog who got the immediate minibreak and let 2-0. And then Raonic took control. The Canadian won five straight points, three of them on Cuevas’ serve, to give himself a chance to serve for the match. He finally reached match point at 6-3, although Cuevas saved the first two. However, the final point came on Raonic’s serve and he made no mistake, drawing a return error to survive the scare in two hours and 35 minutes.
By the Numbers
It was hardly a typical serving day for Raonic. While he did pound 11 aces, he only won a mere 67% of points on his first serve and 56% on his second serve. He was broken a remarkable four times, although he saved eight break points. Cuevas was actually slightly stronger, limiting his opponent to three breaks on ten opportunities. He was also better on his first serve, winning 71% of those points. In the end, Cuevas actually won five more points than Raonic. But the 10th seed won the most important points and goes on to face Damir Dzumhur, who upset Tomas Berdych, in the round of 16. Raonic beat Dzumhur in straight sets at the last Masters 1000 event, the Miami Open, last month.