Milos Raonic feels that things may finally be looking up.
The big-serving Canadian, who is adjusting to a new coach and a more aggressive style, was never in trouble in second-round action Wednesday at the men’s Rogers Cup as he downed Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-4 just before torrents of rain crashed down on Uniprix Stadium.
It was the first time since May the lanky right-hander put two wins together, and the victory was much more decisive than his three-set win over Jeremy Chardy in the opening round of the $3.49-million hardcourt event.
“You sort of keep working away,” said Raonic, who hired Ivan Ljubicic to replace Galo Blanco as his coach in May. “You keep hoping you get closer and closer to this.
“The thing is, I felt like I was getting closer definitely on the practice court, I just wasn’t really doing it in the matches.”
The Thornhill, Ont., product has maintained a career-high 13th spot in world rankings despite a 7-7 record over the last three months. He will play the winner of a match between sixth-seeded Juan Del Potro and Ivan Dodig, which was scheduled for later Wednesday night but was in danger of being postponed because of the weather.
Raonic, whose match with Youzhny was delayed briefly by rain, is hoping to test himself against an elite player to see where his makeover to a more attacking style stands.
Youzhny, a winner two weeks ago in Gstaad, ended a six-match winning streak.
“The pieces are sort of coming together,” said Raonic. “I still made a few errors in some critical situations where I wouldn’t want to, but mostly I played clean.
“I think if I keep working away, those little pieces will come together better and those errors will disappear. I know I can still do much better. Obviously, when the opportunities arise against top guys, that’s where I’m really going to try to push myself to show the best of myself. But I still know there’s a lot of steps I need to take.”
Raonic and Canada’s second-highest ranked player, No. 71 Vasek Pospisil, were the only Canadians to reach the round of 16 as Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., Filip Peliwo of Vancouver and Jesse Levine of Ottawa all lost.
Pospisil, of Vernon, B.C., downed Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-4 on a day that also saw Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal both return to action.
Murray, in his first match since his stirring victory at Wimbledon in June, shook off some rust and battled a swirling wind to down Marcel Granollers 6-4, 7-6 (2) on centre court.
The Scotsman won his 13th straight match, including his victories at Wimbledon, where be became the first men’s champion from Britain in 77 years.
On Thursday, Murray will face Ernests Gulbis, who beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Murray is 5-0 against Gulbis in his career.
“I was pretty nervous beforehand — that was a good sign,” said Murray. “I’m pretty ready to move forward and not think too much about Wimbledon and concentrate on the U.S. Open.
“I think in some ways, it’s nice. I’ll probably never feel that same pressure again. That’s why I was nervous today. That’s why I’m really happy. It wasn’t my best tennis, but the nerves were there and that’s a good sign.”
A two-time Rogers Cup champion, Nadal was also back on court for the first time since Wimbledon, where he lost in the first round. The Spaniard, who arrived a week early to work on his hardcourt game, made short work of Levine in a 6-2, 6-0 win.
“I’m pleased about the victory, first thing,” said Nadal, who is seeded fourth. “After seven weeks without playing a match, starting in a very tough tournament on a fast court, to be through to the third round is good.”
Levine made nine double faults, which he put down to soreness in his elbow that he hopes will be cleared up before the U.S. Open at the end of August.
“He really doesn’t let you go,” Levine said of Nadal, who has won both of their meetings. “Once he gets you under wrap, you’re in trouble. It’s tough.”
Peliwo fell 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to Denis Istomin. The 2012 Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior champion had posted his first Rogers Cup win in the first round over Jarkko Nieminen.
He was disappointed to lose, but was pleased he was able to compete with top ATP Tour players.
“To be able to keep up with these guys, have chances to beat them, it’s a great feeling,” said Peliwo. “There’s definitely a lot of confidence, a lot of positives to take from these matches.
“It’s something to build on for the weeks and the months to come.”
Istomin takes on two-time defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic in the round of 16.
Nadal will next face 15th-seeded Jerzy Janowicz, who outlasted Dancevic 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Pospisil’s next match will be a first meeting with fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who beat Alexander Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-4.
Pospisil’s No. 71 ranking will rise from this week’s performance after reaching the third round of a Masters series tournament for the first time.
“Everything is going very well for me, indeed,” the 23-year-old said. “But this is thanks to the hard work I’ve been doing.
“It is paying off right now. Everything is falling into place. The goal I had set for myself for the end of this year was, at best, to be top 50. But later, because I had been sick (a bout of mono early in the year), I thought I could try for top-70.”
Pospisil looked to be cruising when he took a 5-2 second-set lead with his fifth service break of the match but then lost on his own serve.
He made no mistakes on his next service game, taking all four points.
Pospisil, still heavy in the legs from a victory in a Challenger series event in Vancouver on Sunday followed by an overnight flight to Montreal, scored his first win over a top-20 opponent Tuesday when he ousted John Isner.
“My match against John maybe rates higher in terms of the moment itself, but this is the first time I ever reached the third round here, or at a Masters or anything like that,” he said. “Just knowing that I’m improving, going in the right direction with my game gives me confidence. Things are very clear for me at the moment, so I’ll just keep working in that direction and see where that will take me.”
Pospisil was among a record five Canadians to reach the second round.
Elsewhere, qualifier Marinko Matosevic caught a break when his 10th-seeded opponent Tommy Haas retired during the first set with a shoulder injury. Matosevic will play Benoit Paire, who ousted eighth-seeded Stanislas Wawinka 6-2, 7-6 (2).
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