WASHINGTON – Milos Raonic won the Citi Open in 2014, in a final against countryman Vasek Pospisil.
He hasn’t been back since, preferring to conserve his energy for the back-to-back Masters 1000 series events in Canada and Cincinnati that follow the D.C. event on the calendar.
But after taking a last-minute wild card, Raonic is in the third round after a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (8) win over France’s Nicolas Mahut that took nearly two hours on a very warm day.
It was patchy, not unexpectedly when players compete for the first time on hard courts after the end of the grass season. Raonic had 26 aces. But he also had nine double-faults. And he only converted one of the 10 break-point chances he had against Mahut – or it could have been far more routine.
Check out this Tennis.Life interview with the 26-year-old Canadian in which he talks Citi Open, coaching changes, training regimes and … Davis Cup.
Raonic’s grass-court consultant Mark Knowles remains very much in the picture. After Wimbledon, Raonic went down to his home in the Bahamas to train. New coach Dusan Vemic also was there.
If Raonic is to win the Citi Open this time, he will have to plow through very different landscape from the one around him in 2014.
That year, the highest-ranked player he defeated to win the title was Pospisil, then ranked No.36.
Big-time 500 field
The tournament this year had Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev – but suddenly loaded up with the wild cards and added Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Raonic.
There have been some early casualties – Gaël Monfils and Nick Kyrgios went out in their first matches. And Zverev barely escaped his, winning in a third-set tiebreak against Jordan Thompson of Australia.
Monfils vs. Mischa Zverev turned into … Guido Pella vs. Yuki Bhambri, in a flash.
Zverev vs. Kyrgios turned into … Zverev vs. Tennys Sandgren.
But Nishikori vs. del Potro is still on for the third round.
Raonic will have to beat Marcos Baghdatis, then perhaps Jack Sock, then perhaps the winner between Dimitrov and Zverev – just to reach the semifinals.
That’s not dissimilar to what he might have to do at the Masters 1000 tournaments the next two weeks. So it’s a good dress rehearsal.