Defending Brisbane International champion Milos Raonic picked up where he left off at the end of 2016 with a powerful performance on Thursday to kick off his 2017 season. The top seed, who has reached the last two finals in Brisbane, only dropped five games in his first match of the year, dispatching Deigo Schwartzman in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
Lone break goes to Raonic
It took Raonic a bit of time to get his footing in his first match of 2017, needing to dig out of a 0-30 hole and save a break point in his opening service game before holding. Through the early stages of the match, Schwartzman was doing a good job of keeping the big-hitting Canadian out of his rhythm and prevented him from dictating. He was also on point with his passing shots, keeping the Canadian’s net attack at bay.
Finally, in the sixth game, Raonic was able to make a breakthrough. He got in control of the rallies and raced to a 0-40 lead, drawing a forehand into the net from the Argentine on the second to take a 4-2 lead. That was all the top seed would need, as he would hold his remaining two games, closing out the set with back to back aces.
Raonic perseveres after wild start
The top seed seemed to be in control of the match when he raced ahead 0-40 in the opening game of the second set and drew an error at 15-40 to take an immediate break lead. However, Schwartzman did not go away quietly. He went up 15-40 on Raonic’s serve with a passing shot that the Canadian could not handle, a common theme on the day, and was gifted the break when the top seed overcooked a forehand to put the set level at 1-1.
The back-and-forth continued as Raonic looked to regain the lead. In the very next game, he battled to break point at 40-AD and the Argentine gave the break right back when he dumped a forehand into the net. This time, Raonic did not surrender the lead. In fact, just the opposite. After holding to consolidate the break, he would add an insurance break and a hold to stretch his lead to 5-1. Schwartzman would stop the run in the following game on his own serve, but the top seed book his place in the last eight with a routine hold of his own, claiming victory in an hour and ten minutes.
By the numbers
It was a solid service outing for Raonic, who struck 12 aces, won 75 percent of his first serve points and saved two of three break points. However, his net attack will have to improve as he only won 12 of 22 net approaches. On return, he managed four breaks of his own and limited Schwartzman to 40 percent of second serve points won.
Raonic was solid in his first match of the season, but he will need to kick his game into high gear if he wants to defend his title, as fifth seed Rafael Nadal now stands in his path in the quarterfinals.