Canada’s Milos Raonic opens Wimbledon account with win over Frenchman

WIMBLEDON, England – Canadian Milos Raonic made his Grand Slam grass-court singles debut Monday with a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Frenchman Marc Gicquel at Wimbledon.

Raonic fired 25 aces in a 96-minute effort that sent him into the second round in his first senior appearance at the All England club.

“I think I played well,” Raonic said. “It’s tough, especially being at a completely new tournament and also being at this stage and people talking it up – how I should be doing well.”

Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., Rebecca Marino of Vancouver and Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., all had their first-round matches postponed due to rain.

Gicquel, the world No. 119, reached the main draw as a lucky loser following the withdrawal of Italian Fabio Fognini.

The Frenchman never threatened the 20-year-old Canadian, who swept the first set in 25 minutes and won on the first of three match points. Raonic blew 41 winners past his outclassed opponent while committing only 13 unforced errors.

Gicquel failed on his only break point chance while the Canadian broke twice in their brief encounter under sunny skies in London. Raonic won on Court 14, which is close to an intersection of several walkways at the All England club.

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“If you stop and you try to listen, you can notice a lot of things,” Raonic said. “You just try to forget all this stuff. I remember in the warmup there was some guy doing construction. I don’t know where, but there was some guy drilling something into something.

“That was the only thing that really popped up. But I tried to stay within the court and not look around too much.”

Raonic, who has a whopping 502 aces on the season, is the No. 31 seed at the tournament.

He began his ATP-level grass career in Halle, Germany, earlier this month. He made it to the quarter-finals before losing to Philipp Petzschner.

Raonic, who was born in Montenegro but grew up in Thornhill, Ont., then worked on polishing his grass-court game over the last week.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to practise with a few of the top guys – that helps,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to soak up as much and trying to learn as much (as I can).”

Raonic will next play veteran left-hander Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 winner over Tommy Haas of Germany. The winner of the second-round match will likely face top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain in the third round.

The Canadian said he would relish a meeting with Nadal, but doesn’t want to look past Muller.

“It would mean a lot,” Raonic said of the potential matchup. “First of all, it’s a third round of a Grand Slam, so that’s a plus.

“But I still have to play (the second round). But if it does get to that (Nadal), it’s a good opportunity and something to look forward to.”

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