Milos Raonic came up short in his bid to reach the Stockolm Open final as the Canadian lost 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3 to top seed Gael Monfils on Saturday.
The native of Thornhill, Ont., was up early in the match before losing his grip midway through the second set.
“I had my opportunities,” said Raonic. “I was up a break in the second set and got a bit tight. I had some sloppy mistakes. He's a top-10 player so he'll take those and run with them.”
It was just the second loss in an indoor match this season for Raonic, who had nine aces and 50 winners while making 19 unforced errors.
On Sunday, Monfils will take on Finn Jarkko Nieminen, a crowd favourite in Stockholm who beat two-time champion James Blake 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-2.
The 29th-ranked Raonic won in a walkover last February when Monfils had to withdraw from the semifinals in San Jose with a wrist injury. Raonic went on to win that tournament for his first career trophy.
On Saturday, the Canadian held his nerve in the tense opening set, saving three break points in the fifth game to go up 3-2 as his flamboyant opponent rolled head over heels in a futile attempt to chase a winning ball.
As the 53-minute opener went into a tiebreaker, Raonic came back from 2-5 down. His first set point was saved by a lucky Monfils lob which kissed the baseline, but Raonic won on his second when the Frenchman returned long.
Raonic broke for 2-1 in the second set as his grip on the match tightened. He took a 4-3 lead but lost serve as Monfils levelled at four games apiece. That was the spark the top seed needed to race away, winning the set form a Raonic forehand wide.
Monfils secured a break for 4-2 in the third set, then held to love for 5-2. A game later it was over for Raonic, who put a volley out to lose in two hours nine minutes.
It was still a successful week for the 20-year-old Raonic, who is making a comeback after undergoing hip surgery July 5.
“I never expected to be playing this well so soon after coming back,” said Raonic. “I'm pretty happy with everything.”
His record on the season stands at 31-17. All three of his losses since hip surgery have come against top-10 players — Rafael Nadal in Tokyo, David Ferrer last week in Shanghai and Monfils.
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