Sixth seed Milos Raonic arrived at Wimbledon short on grass-court matches as he looks to do one better than his runner-up finish last year at the All England Club. The Canadian suffered a first-round setback at the Aegon Championships to Thanasi Kokkinakis, but got just the match he needed with a challenging 3-6 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 second-round win on Thursday against Mikhail Youzhny.
“I think I’m getting better and better with each match. I’m making good steps forward,” said Raonic. “If that continues to be the case, and hopefully the momentum can speed up, I’ll be giving myself a possibility to achieve what I’d like.”
The Russian is no stranger to success on grass, reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2012 and the Round of 16 on seven other occasions. It appeared that Youzhny was on track for an upset after breaking Raonic in his opening service game and taking that momentum through the opening set.
Youzhny was on the verge of a commanding advantage when he led 6/4 in the second-set tie-break. But Raonic dug deep, forcing two errors from Youzhny with aggressive baseline play before ultimately leveling the match.
Raonic found a new gear in the second half of the contest, winning 88 per cent of his first-serve points and hammering 17 aces. He required only a single break in the third and fourth sets to advance in two hours and 50 minutes. The Canadian improves to 3-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Youzhny.
Awaiting Raonic in the next round is 25th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who fought past #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-7(6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and 34 minutes. The Spaniard aims to make the second week here for the first time in his career. Raonic is even in his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Ramos-Vinolas at 1-1.
Eighth seed Dominic Thiem also arrived at Wimbledon with a grass-court season far from the lofty standards he sets for himself. A second-round exit at the Gerry Weber Open to Robin Haase was followed by a surprise opening round exit at the Antalya Open to qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan.
But as always, the Austrian has found a way to step up in the world’s biggest events. Thiem rallied from a set down to defeat the always-tricky Gilles Simon 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, putting him into the third round at the All England Club for the first time in his career.
“It’s still not my natural surface, but these victories give me a lot of confidence. Being in the third round of Wimbledon for the first time is also pretty special,” said Thiem. “I served well the whole match and had many aces. It’s an important shot on grass.”
Thiem found himself camped far behind the baseline and engaging in long rallies during his Halle and Antalya appearances, still replicating his clay-court tactics from Roland Garros. But the eighth seed looked far more like a grass-courter today on Court No. 1, hitting 42 winners and succeeding in 28 of his 37 trips to the net. Thiem’s aggression on returns also resulted in 18 break points, converting on five of them to prevail in two hours and 52 minutes.
The Austrian improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Simon to 6-2 and has won their past five matches. This was their first meeting on grass.
Next up for Thiem is #NextGenATP American Jared Donaldson, who defeated Paolo Lorenzi 6-4, 7-6(0), 6-7(0) 6-2. The 20 year old matches his best result at a Grand Slam after his third-round finish at last year’s US Open. Thiem won his lone FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with Donaldson this May at the Mutua Madrid Open.