Milos Raonic into round of 16 at Western & Southern Open

Milos Raonic advanced to the round of 16 at the Western & Southern Open before fellow Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov were eliminated on Monday.

Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., beat Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-3, 7-5 in a second-round match at the opening tournament in the ATP Tour’s restart.

The 15th-seeded Auger-Aliassime lost 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (5) to American wild-card entrant Tennys Sandgren, while the 12th-seeded Shapovalov fell 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 to German Jan-Lennard Struff.

Raonic, ranked 30th, rode his big serve to victory against the world No. 28.

The Canadian never faced a break point and won 89 per cent of his points on his first serve.

Raonic had 23 aces, 18 more than Evans.

WATCH | Raonic defeats Great Britain’s Evans in straight sets:

Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., defeats Daniel Evans 6-3, 7-5 in 2nd round action. 1:17

Raonic will next face British wild-card entry Andy Murray, who upset fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime led 5-4 with serve in the third set before losing all four points in the ensuing game to put the match back on even terms.

In the tiebreak, Auger-Aliassime led 5-4 with serve before double-faulting and then making an unforced error. The 55th-ranked Sandgren then won on serve.

Sandgren, 29, was emotional throughout the match, often yelling at himself. It was in stark contrast to the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who was far quieter.

It was a sloppy match, with Auger-Aliassime making 58 unforced errors, 13 more than Sandgren. The Canadian also double-faulted 15 times.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime upset by United States’ Sandgren:

American wildcard Tennys Sandgren edges 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (5). 0:37

Auger-Aliassime called it “a really bad day” in terms of his level.

“Today was tough to say the least, starting from my serve but then going on to other things that weren’t going well in my game,” he said.

In doubles play, Raonic and Auger-Aliassime dropped their round of 16 match to American Rajeev Ram and Britain’s Joe Salisbury in a walkover.

Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., lost his fourth match in a row against the 34th-ranked Struff.

The German broke Shapovalov in the final game of the match.

Normally held in Cincinnati, the Western & Southern Open is being played at the same site as the U.S. Open this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No fans are in the facility.

WATCH | Shapovalov falls to Germany’s Struff at Western & Southern Open:

Jan-Lennard Struff defeats Denis Shapovalov in 3 sets at the Western & Southern Open, the German has beaten the Canadian 4 times in 5 matches. 0:42

Serena Williams avoids loss with perfect tiebreaker

Her yells of “Come on!” filling a stadium devoid of spectators, Serena Williams was pushed to the brink of a stunning loss in her longest match since 2012 before pulling away with a perfect tiebreaker and edging Arantxa Rus 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (0) Monday at the Western & Southern Open.

“I had a crowd in my head or something,” Williams said with a laugh. “For me, it was like there was a crowd there.”

Rus is a Dutch qualifier ranked No. 72 whose flat, left-handed strokes from the baseline gave Williams some trouble. Williams dropped four games in a row in the second set, then did so again in the third, when she fell behind 6-5.

Rus served for the match there and, at deuce, was two points from victory.

She wouldn’t win another point. A double-fault gave Williams a break chance, and an errant groundstroke sent the match to the concluding tiebreaker.

Showing the strokes and grit that carried her to 23 Grand Slam titles — against an opponent who has never won so much as one tour-level singles title of any sort — Williams ran away with it, ending the 2-hour, 48-minute match with a forehand, celebrating most points with a yell and a clenched left fist.

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Johny Watshon

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