Three years ago in the fourth round at Wimbledon, Canadian Milos Raonic came back from a two-sets-to-none deficit for the first time in his career to beat Belgium’s David Goffin in five sets.
On Monday, Raonic found himself on the losing side of a strikingly similar scenario when he was defeated after leading two sets to none in the fourth round at Wimbledon by Argentina’s Guido Pella. It’s the first time in his career that Raonic has lost a match after winning the first two sets.
The 28-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., bowed out 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 8-6 to Pella, a player seven months older than Raonic who, in 12 years as a pro, had never advanced beyond the third round of any Grand Slam tournament. Now he’s in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Raonic said he simply ran out of gas.
“I wasn’t efficient and wasn’t able to play the way I needed to,” said Raonic, who fired 33 aces among his 80 winners and won 74-of-110 points at the net. “He started getting in more points and I had to find a way to create like I did early on in the match.”
As the match went on, Pella found his range and started landing his returns at Raonic’s feet far more often. The resulting volleys were difficult ones, and Raonic couldn’t make enough of them.
It had to have helped that Pella faced – and defeated – another big server in the previous round in No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Raonic had neither the energy nor the inclination to try to hold firm at the baseline with a clay-court player happy to engage in long rallies. And he was struggling to win points at the net. So his options were limited.
Despite his physical woes, Raonic still had every chance to win. He served for the match in the third set, but was broken.
And in the fifth set, he saved three match points. But the Canadian couldn’t save the fourth.
“I was serving significantly slower as the match went on,” Raonic said. “I just didn’t have that push in my legs to serve with the same sort of conviction and to keep him guessing. I became a bit predictable. I started going to a few serves that maybe take a little bit more slice, and not going for the flat or aggressive ones that I would normally need to use much more.”
This was the first five-set match Raonic had played since the U.S. Open last summer, and only his second since he defeated Alexander Zverev in the fourth round at the All-England Club a year ago.
“It’s frustrating. It’s twice this year,” Raonic said. “I ran out of gas in Australia [in the quarter-finals against Lucas Pouille of France] and ran out of gas here. That happened to me a few times early in my career and I thought it was unacceptable, and I think of it exactly the same way now.”
But he wouldn’t ascribe the lack of endurance to the lack of match play because of his back injury. Rather, Raonic said he would reassess what he’s been doing on the physical side.
“I think I had enough weeks at home to train, to do fitness. I just have to review what I did well and, more importantly, what I didn’t,” he said. “I feel like I have been making a few blunders on those decisions and how I spend my time when I have been training. I think that all needs to be put into consideration.”
The other Canadians in action on Monday were more successful.
Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Xu Yifan avenged a heartbreaking loss to Duan Yingying and Zheng Saisai of China in the quarter-finals of the French Open by defeating them 7-5, 6-3.
The pair, seeded fourth, advanced to the quarter-finals of the ladies’ doubles before Dabrowski and partner Mate Pavic of Croatia even began their mixed doubles campaign.
The pair, seeded third, had a bye in the first round.
On Monday evening, they faced the unseeded but well-decorated team of Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round.
Play was suspended because of darkness at 3-4 in the third set with Murray and Mattek-Sands about to serve to try to even things up. Dabrowski and Pavic had led the third set 3-1. They will resume on Tuesday.
In the junior event, Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont. advanced to the second round of the boys singles with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over British wild card Jack Pinnington-Jones.
Draxl, a 17-year-old who committed to the University of Kentucky last October and will start there this fall, is the No. 12 seed.
There are no Canadians in the juniors girls’ events.
French Open junior girls singles champion Leyla Annie Fernandez decided to skip the grass-court junior tournaments. Instead, she is competing in a $25,000 International Tennis Federation professional event in Saskatoon this week.