Update, 19 Apr, AM:
Qualifier Simon Greul (GER) defeated Robert Kendrick (USA) in their opening match, so if Milos is successful this afternoon vs. Stepanek (CZE), his second round match will be vs. Simon Greul. The match previous to Raonic's first round match (Lopez (ESP) vs. Kukushkin (KAZ)) is part-way through the 3rd set, so I expect Raonic vs. Stepanek to start not before 12 pm (noon) Eastern Time, today, 19 Apr.
Milos Raonic (CAN) and Nico Almagro (ESP) lost in the first doubles match of the tournament against Malisse (BLR) and Dolgopolov (UKR) this morning. Raonic and Almagro were able to get 64% of their first serves in, while their opponents only made 43%, but unfortunately for the Spanish/Canadian duo, they were only able to win 58% and 45% of their first and second serve points respectively compared with 85% and 73% for Dolgo and Malisse. Similar disparity was observed in 1st and 2nd return points won, and in total service and return points won. The match was not available to watch anywhere on the internet that I could find, so I was not able to watch to see how it was thst Milos and Nico were being outplayed - but according to the stats, they were.
Milos will be playing his opening round match against Radek Stepanek (CZE) tomorrow, on Court 1, in the 4th of 5 matches to be played there starting at 10:30 am CEST (or 4:30 am Eastern). According to Sportsnet.ca's schedule their broadcasting doesn't start until the round of 16 on 21 April - so we will need to check to see if it's streaming on sportsnet.ca or otherwise available online to watch since it apparently won't be on TV in Canada. Assuming 1.5 hrs per match:
Milos Raonic (CAN) vs. Radek Stepanek (CZE) no earlier than 9 am Eastern Time, 19 April on Court 1 at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
Milos Raonic (CAN) is seeded #15 in the main singles draw in Barcelona, for which the play starts tomorrow now that the qualifying has finished. The timing has yet to be posted but he will be playing Radek Stepanek (CZE) in his first round match. If he is successful there, his next match will be against the winner of the first round match between Robert Kendrick (USA) and Simon Greul (GER). Starting at the 3rd round, his opponents are a little more challenging: #3 seed Robin Soderling of Sweden followed by #5 seed Tomas Berdych (CZE) in order to make it to the semi-finals (assuming Soderling and Berdych are also successful in their first 2 and first 3 rounds respectively). His semi-final match would most likely be against Nadal (ESP) and possible contenders from the other half of the draw in the final could be Murray (GBR), Ferrer (ESP), Almagro (ESP), Melzer (AUT), or perhaps #10 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine.
This would be a tall order, especially on the clay surface where so many of his opponents feel most at home, but Milos Raonic, now ranked #28 in the ATP World Tour Rankings, might just be up for such a challenge.
Milos Raonic (CAN) and Nico Almagro (ESP) will be playing the first doubles match of the tournament at 11 am (5 am Eastern Time) against Dolgopolov (UKR) and Malisse (BEL) on "Pista Central" tomorrow morning, 18 April.
Also in the draw is familiar Canadian doubles star Daniel Nestor, who is again seeded #2 in Barcelona alongside Max Mirnyi (BLR). Their first-round bye will see them face either Bellucci (BRZ) and Dodig (CRO) or Cuevas (URU) and Dlouhy (CZE) in the second round.
Visit the official tournament website http://www.barcelonaopenbancsabadell.com
Learn about Raonic's "metoric (sic) rise up rankings" to #28 from this rather comprehensive article on sportsnet.ca http://www.sportsnet.ca/tennis/2011/04/17/barcelona_open_raonic/
There's no point in sugar coating it. No.4 seed David Ferrer (ESP) defeated Milos Raonic today in straight sets, 6-1 6-5. Milos just wasn't at his best today, which he needed to be in order to give himself a chance against a tough clay court player like Ferrer. The slower conditions on the court would certainly did not play to Milos' advantage. In the end, Ferrer's experience and steady play proved to be too much for Raonic to handle.
Ferrer's dogged defensive play was giving Milos trouble from the very start of the match. The unforced errors for Milos began to pile up early, but he was still able to hit some heavy forehand shots to push Ferrer around the court and win some points. Raonic managed to end a few points quickly when he came in behind a big first serve, but ultimately couldn't employ this tactic consistently enough to protect his serve. Ferrer broke on his first opportunity of the match with Raonic serving at 1-2. Milos got a chance to break back in the following game, but wasn't able to convert on his single break point chance. From there, Ferrer ran away with the first set in 35 minutes.
To start the second, Ferrer was exhibiting some great baseline tennis while Raonic was still making errors. Raonic was broken to open the set and Ferrer jumped out to the early lead. The first (and only) ace for Milos came in his second service game of the second set. Some better hitting from Raonic earned him a break at love to get back on serve at 2-2. But the errors slowly crept back into Raonic's game, mainly on the forehand side. Midway through the set, Raonic tried to change things up by coming to the net more often. The strategy might have worked if he didn't miss so many volleys and if Ferrer wasn't constantly coming up with great passing shots from all over the court. Ferrer would break Raonic's serve two more times to take the set and the match.
So just like at the Australian Open this year, it was Ferrer who ended Milos' run in his first clay court ATP 1000 event. When the players approached the net to shake hands after the match, I think I heard Raonic thank Ferrer for the lesson. Nothing wrong with learning from one of the best clay court players around, and getting paid to do it.
Read what Milos had to say about the match here.
Despite the loss, Raonic will move into the top 30 when the new rankings come out after the this tournament. This is obviously good news when it comes to being seeded at the French Open and getting a favourable draw. But for now, we'll be looking forward to seeing Milos on the clay in Barcelona next week.
Milos Raonic defeated Ernests Gulbis (LAT) in straight sets today at the Monte-Carle Rolex Masters, 6-4, 7-5. It was a tight match that took 91 minutes to settle in Raonic's favour, who proved to be the more solid player when it counted.
Both players came out serving well to open the first set. It was Raonic who was able to get the first break of the match after a few untimely errors by Gulbis. But Raonic couldn't consolidate the break and Gulbis broke back in the following game. The turning point of the set came when Gulbis was attempting to return a drop shot and the umpire intervened calling a double bounce. The point went to Raonic, and Gulbis was visibly frustrated by the call. Raonic was able to get the break in that game and would hold onto the lead to take the first set 6-4.
Gulbis settled down after what he thought was an unfair call and looked steady in the second set. Raonic needed every big first serve he could get in order to keep from falling behind early. With Gulbis challenging in Raonic's fourth service game, Milos hit an emphatic smash winner from deep in the court. He followed that up with a huge ace to hold serve and put the pressure back on Gulbis. This proved to be another turning point in the match. Raonic kept that momentum going into Gulbis' next service game and got the break rather quickly to take a 5-4 lead. Serving for the match, it looked like Milos was going to hold at love for the win -- but at 40-0 he threw in his first double fault of the match and gave Gulbis an opening. From there, Gulbis battled his way to deuce and put together some great winners to break Raonic and stay in the match. Some spotty play by Gulbis resulted in Raonic breaking back at love and getting another chance to serve for the match. This time, Raonic made no mistake and won in style by hitting an ace on his fifth match point.
For the most part, Raonic looked solid on his serve except for that slight anomaly when trying to close out the match. His first serve percentage fell off a bit in the second set, but he ended up winning more of those points compared to the first set. Most of Milos' 7 aces came in the second set, which helped him out of a few jams when Gulbis was putting together some good rallies. Overall, it was a good win for Raonic which will no doubt give him some confidence going forward in the tournament.
Raonic will face one of two Spaniards in the third round, either Feliciano Lopez or  David Ferrer. Their match will be decided first thing tomorrow morning on Court des Princes.
What Milos in his post-match interview here.
The Raonic vs. Gulbis match in Monte-Carlo is about to start, and it will be shown LIVE on Rogers Sportsnet One, as well as the Sportsnet West and Pacific regional channels.
Richard Gasquet and Ivan Ljubicic defeated the doubles team of Nicolas Almagro and Milos Raonic in straight sets today, 6-3 6-2. The match took less than an hour.
Of course, Raonic is still alive in the main singles draw and will face Ernests Gulbis in the second round at Monte-Carlo. The two have never played at the ATP World Tour level, so there is no head-to-head record to compare. According to the order of play, their match will be played last on Court Central on Tuesday.
As for watching the matches in Canada, Rogers Sportsnet will begin showing Monte-Carlo on Friday, April 15. Starting today, they are streaming the matches online here. However they are not showing the matches live, presumably because of the time zone difference. This is probably a good thing for tennis fans out west in Canada, as well as for the laziest of us on the east coast who aren't exactly morning people.
Milos Raonic defeated Michael Llodra (FRA) in a swingy three set match today, 6-3, 0-6, 6-0. I wasn't able to watch the match live, but judging from the live score ticker it's pretty clear that holding serve was a difficult task at times for both players.
Llodra couldn't save any break points in the first set, but didn't even face any in the second set. Raonic's 1st serve fell to 57% and won only 65% of those 1st serve points when he dropped the second set without holding. But Raonic was able to improve his serve in the third set and Llodra had a tough time even winning points on his service games. Despite the 6-0 score in the third, Raonic still had to save 3 break points to get the win.
Raonic will face either No.14 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) or Ernests Gulbis (LAT) in the second round. Their match is up next on Court Central and is about to get underway. I know I'm not the only one looking forward to a possible second round match-up between Raonic and Dolgopolov -- two of the most exciting players to watch so far this year. If they're playing anywhere near their best, that would be a real treat to watch.
UPDATE: Read more about Raonic's first ATP clay court victory here.
Milos Raonic will appear on Mansbridge One On One this weekend on CBC News Network. The program airs at 9:30PM ET on Saturday, with an encore presentation at 12:30AM ET Sunday morning. There will be a short preview of the interview on The National on Friday night. Here's the blurb from the Mansbridge One On One site:
- At just 20 years old, Milos Raonic has catapulted up the ATP rankings after an impressive performance at this year's Australian Open, and a win in San Jose, to become the highest-ranked Canadian male tennis player ever. Peter speaks with the tennis sensation in an exclusive television interview.**Schedule note: This episode will also air on CBC Television on Sunday, April 3 at 12:30 p.m. local time.**