Canada’s Milos Raonic beats American qualifier Jared Donaldson at Rogers Cup
TORONTO – Milos Raonic has warmed up to the same song at every match of the Rogers Cup — “My House” by Flo Rida. The song is already omnipresent at sporting events, but it especially reflects how Raonic wants to play at the ATP Tour event in his hometown, dominating every set and showing a new-found understanding of the short game.
The Canadian easily dispatched American qualifier Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday night in the third round of the Rogers Cup. Raonic will play France’s Gael Monfils on centre court at York University’s Aviva Centre in the quarter-finals on Friday.
“I’m taking care of my own things, creating some opportunities. And, you know, I’m going for the shots,” said Raonic on his aggressive play. “I’m taking time away from the other guy, making the guy, from what I can tell, the other side of the net, uncomfortable, not giving him too much rhythm.”
Raonic, from nearby Thornhill, Ont., established his dominance over Donaldson from the very first serve, hitting 235 km/h on the radar gun. He fired four aces to earn his first game and won the set with a slicing backhand volley at the net, pumping his fist as the crowd roared its approval.
In all, Raonic had 15 aces to Donaldson’s three.
“It’s that way always,” said Raonic of his serve. “And just because I saw that he was going to return from close, I went a little bit harder into the body just to try to make him think about it, hopefully make him step back to open up the angles for myself more.”
Raonic’s evolving close-range game was on display in the second set. He charged the net looking for a volley after a serve, but pulled his racket out of the way of Donaldson’s return — to the stunned gasps of his fans — to let the ball sail just out of bounds.
“The only motivation for me was to improve what I need to improve to win,” said Raonic of developing his accuracy on returns. “It was never for anybody else’s opinion and these kind of things. It was to work on these things that I believe could help me win. Obviously the return has been a big part of it.
Monfils beat Belgium’s David Goffin 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-4, earlier in the day to advance. The Frenchman spoke about the possibility of playing the hometown favourite Raonic.
“I love to play when it’s crowded, and if the crowd is for the other one, it’s fine,” said Monfils, adding with a smile: “I expect a very good match.”
For his part, Raonic plans to keep controlling the pace of his matches, even against a ranked opponent like the 10th-seeded Monfils.
“I have to dictate,” said Raonic. “I have been able to get the better of him twice this year because I was controlling the court and taking time away from him coming forward.
“He can do a lot of things. He can make you play a lot of balls. If you sort of take the time away from him then you make it difficult on him. I’m going to have to continue doing that.”
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia beat qualifier Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in the final singles match of the day. Just as Djokovic got off the centre court rain started to pour down.
Djokovic’s victory means he’ll play long-time rival Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals. Berdych advanced earlier on Thursday after defeating American Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4.
“We played so many times, he’s one of the few players I’ve played at least 30 times against,” said Djokovic. “It’s not a first, obviously I need to review some past matches.”
Earlier in the day, second seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland downed American Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Wawrinka put Sock away quickly in the second set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and then serving out to win the match. Although Sock was only the No. 16 seed, Wawrinka didn’t take him lightly.
Also, Japan’s Kei Nishikori topped Rajeev Ram of the United States 6-3, 6-4, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Australia’s Bernard Tomic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 an d Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov defeated Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-5.
In men’s doubles play, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil advanced from the second round after Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Sock retired.