Milos Raonic

Ryan Harrison Shocks Milos Raonic To Reach US Open Third Round

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Ryan Harrison upended the No. 5 seed and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in the second round at the US Open on Wednesday, 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1.

“This is the tournament you dream of growing up,” said Harrison. “This has been a really special year. I’ll never forget it.”

Harrison’s younger brother Christian also qualified for this year’s US Open, so this event had already been a special one for the Harrison family. Ryan’s performance on Wednesday on the new Grandstand Court only helped to sweeten the already great experience.

The 24-year old American, who has been on a great run of form this summer, got off to an impressive start and made it clear that he would not back down to the powerful Raonic. After getting an early break for a 3-2 lead, Harrison, the former No. 43 player in the world, was broken right back but kept his composure to force a tiebreak in the first set. Raonic, though, looked to take charge of the match at that point as he raced out to a 4-1 lead before eventually taking the tiebreak and the set.

Once again, though, Harrison, who finished with 48 winners, was able to keep his composure early on and not back down. The No. 120 player in the world got out to an early break and held a 4-1 lead before seeing six set points on Raonic’s serve at 5-3. The Canadian was able to fend all of those off, though, before breaking Harrison in the next game, looking like he had fought off the effort from Harrison.

That was not the case, though, as the theme of the match continued. A mentally tougher Harrison fought back again, breaking in the 12th game of the set to level the match.

“It’s mental maturity, a little bit of stabilization with everything around me that is allowing me to play with a sense of calm and also with excitement,” said Harrison of his new mental toughness that helped him battle through adversity in the first two sets to keep the match tight.

Raonic was able to fight through that stumble late in the second set as he jumped out to an early break lead in the third. The match completely turned after just a couple games in the set, though, as the Wimbledon finalist began to feel some physical issues.

After calling the trainer for an issue with his wrist, Raonic began to limp around the court, allowing Harrison to break back to get back on serve before once again breaking in the 12th game to take a two sets to one lead.

“The left arm, the right forearm there towards the end of the third, both quads, a little bit hip flexor on the left. It was just catching me all over,” said Raonic.

The match was well over as the fourth set began as Raonic clearly had nothing left in the tank. After a surprising hold to start off the set, Raonic was broken in his next two service games while Harrison lost just two points on serve in the whole set, including a hold at love in the final game. A fine recipe for Harrison to close out the match and earn his best career win, putting him in the third round of a major for the first time.

“I’m excited that emotionally and from an execution standpoint I was able to put enough in play and be aggressive enough to take the win,” said Harrison, who was able to break the big serving Raonic seven times in the match. “I’m still young. I’m 24. I’ve got a-ways to go, especially with guys playing well into their 30s now.”

While Raonic’s injury played a factor in Harrison winning the match, nothing can be taken away from the American’s performance on Wednesday, as well as throughout the entire summer, as he has earned a spot back in the Top 100 for the first time since January of 2014.

“He’s been playing well…I didn’t create this pressure for myself or this kind of stress on myself…he did that,” said Raonic of Harrison’s performance.

Harrison, who had previously beaten Raonic in Indian Wells in 2011, will take on Marcos Baghdatis in the third round of the US Open.

Milos Raonic Has Best Mental Match In Wimbledon Semifinal Win Over Roger Federer

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Milos Raonic earned a spot in his first major final as he pulled off an impressive comeback win on Friday over 17-time major champion Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-7(3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

“It’s an incredible comeback for me…it’s a great feeling,” said Raonic, who became the first Canadian to reach a major singles final. “I showed a lot of emotion out there, always positive, and I think that’s what got me through. Mentally, I had one of my best matches in my history and my career.”

The Canadian, who tallied 75 winners in the match, including 23 aces, got off to a quick start against Federer, breaking the seven-time Wimbledon champ in just his second service game of the match for a 3-1 lead. A few more straightforward games on serve concluded the set and the No. 6 seed was able to take the first step forward to the final.

Each player impressed on serve in the second set as the majority of the games saw the returners struggling to win even just one point. In a crucial tenth game, though, Federer opened up a 0-40 lead on Raonic’s serve at 5-4, but the Canadian was up to the task and used his big serves and ground strokes to save those three set points, plus a fourth a few points later, displaying that he might actually be able to pull this off.

Federer, who hit just 14 unforced errors in the match, didn’t let the disappointment of missing out on those four set points, though, as the set went to a tiebreak. From 3-3, the Suisse was able to reel off four points in a row to level the match at one-set all, putting a minor dent in that confidence that Raonic had boosted up.

The former No. 1 player in the world kept his level up and looked to have taken complete control of the match in the third set as he was able to break Raonic in the latter stages for a 4-3 lead. Two holds at love for Federer closed out the set and allowed him to come within one set of his 11th Wimbledon final.

“I was struggling there through the third and fourth sets. He was playing some really good tennis,” said Raonic.

Federer, who beat Raonic in the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals, looked like he would pounce first in the fourth set, as well, as he had a look at two break chances at 2-2. Once again, though, the 6’5” Canadian was up to the task and saved both of them, plus one more in the 4-4 game. The confidence boost received from escaping those big moments allowed Raonic to bounce back from a 40-0 hole on Federer’s service game at 5-6, as he eventually won a 14-point game and converted his third break chance to steal the fourth set and force a decider.

The Canadian carried that momentum into the fifth set, breaking Federer in his second service game for a 3-1 lead, before having two more break chances in Federer’s next service game for a double break lead. He was unable to convert but he didn’t need that extra cushion as there was no way back for the Suisse. Raonic’s big serve, which reached speeds of 144mph and averaged 129mph on the day, proved to be too hot to handle for Federer as Raonic lost just five points on serve in the set, including a hold at love to seal the deal.

“I sort of persevered. I was sort of plugging away…He gave me a little opening towards the end of the fourth. I made the most of it,” said Raonic.

The Canadian now awaits the home favorite Andy Murray in the final after the Brit defeated Tomas Berdych comfortably in straights, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Raonic and Murray just played three weeks ago in the final at Queen’s Club with Murray winning, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3.

“Am I worried about recovering? No…my matches tend to be quite quick,” said Raonic. “I feel pretty good after. I know I’ll feel much better in 48 hours…It’s a slam final. A lot of adrenaline. All this kind of stuff takes over and you keep fighting through.”

“I’ve by no means done what I want to be here to do,” said Raonic, who hopes to become the first Canadian to win a major singles title. “The impact of being Canada’s first-ever finalist will be bigger if I can win the title. I have to focus on that, put all my energy into that.”

 

 

Milos Raonic Serving Woes Leads To One-Sided Loss To Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • Ana Ivanovic was given the 2nd quickest loss of her career as Karolina Pliskova beat her 6-2, 6-0 in the third round of Indian Wells in 49 minutes.
  • In the men’s singles final in Indian Wells, Milos Raonic managed to win only three of 30 points on his second serve, leading to a 6-2, 6-0 defeat.
  • Andy Murray was beaten by a left-handed player other than Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2011 as Federico Delbonis beat him in the third round in Indian Wells.
  • At one point in the John Isner-Kei Nishikori fourth round match at Indian Wells, Nishikori’s average first serve speed was 108 miles per hour, while Isner’s average second serve speed was 115 miles per hour.
  • On a negative note for Isner, each of his last three losses have been decided by third set tiebreaks. In each match, Isner held match point and did not face a break point.
  • Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nenad Zimonjic were able to saved eight match points in the semifinal win over the Bryan brothers in Indian Wells.
  • 16-year old Denis Shapovalov of Canada became the first player born in 1999 to win a match on the challenger level. This comes after Felix Auger Aliassime, also of Canada, became the first player born in 2000 to win a match on the challenger level last year. Shapovalov would also go on to become the first 16-year old to make a challenger semifinal since Stefan Kozlov made the semifinals at the Sacramento Challenger in 2014 as a 16-year old.

Andy Murray Outlasts Milos Raonic To Reach Australian Open Final For Fifth Time

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Andy Murray is into his fifth Australian Open final after defeating Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in Melbourne. Murray ended Raonic’s undefeated start to the season, as the Canadian had won nine matches in a row to start off 2016. Murray will go on to face Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open for a fourth time, the most recent of which came in 2015 with Djokovic winning in four sets.

The eagerly anticipated semifinal match between the No. 2 seed and the No. 13 seed got off to a start that not many people would have expected. Raonic broke Murray at love to start off the match, before fighting back from a 0-40 whole on his serve to get the hold and go up 2-0. There’s not much else to say about the first set, other than that Raonic had another break chance at 4-2, but Murray snuffed it out. Too little too late for Murray, as Raonic cruised on his serve throughout the set to take the early lead.

The second started very tight as Murray had break points in two of Raonic’s first three service games, but was unable to convert on any of them. Raonic struggled to make an impact on Murray’s serve throughout the duration of the set, winning only six points on Murray’s serve. Being able to relax on his own serve allowed Murray to continue to apply pressure on Raonic’s serve, opening up a break chance in the 12th game of the set. Murray would not miss out on this opportunity, as he took it and the set to level the match.

Five holds at love started off the third set as both players appeared to settle down a bit now that the match was back at even. Only once in the set did a returner get past 30 in a game, and that was when Raonic took Murray to deuce at 5-5 and saw a break point. Raonic failed to convert on that, but when the set went to a tiebreak, he was ready to pounce on the big points, taking it 7-4 and going up two sets to one.

The experienced Murray didn’t let the disappointment of dropping the third set get to him, as he waited for an opportunity in the fourth set to take advantage of. It took a while, as once again the servers dominated and the returner got past 15 only once in the first six games of the set, but when Raonic played one poor service game at 3-3, Murray was all over it and broke at love to take the lead. The last three games of the set all went to deuce as Raonic had three opportunities to get back on serve in the set, but Murray played too well for Raonic and closed out the fourth set to even the match up again.

Raonic’s window to get the win appeared to close as the fourth set ended as Raonic quickly found himself down 4-0 in the fifth set. The Canadian appeared to be hindered by a groin injury throughout the match, but the pain intensified as the match approached the end. Murray took advantage of Raonic’s inability to move as well as he had been, jumping out to the double break lead and not looking back, only losing one point on serve in the deciding set.

Murray’s consistent level of play and tough defense proved to be too much for Raonic throughout the match, as Murray hit only 28 unforced errors, 50 less than what Raonic hit. Murray also applied a lot of pressure on Raonic’s second serve, as Raonic won only 44 percent of the points on his second serve.

Despite the loss, Raonic has proved to the tennis world that he has made the necessary improvements to compete at the highest level of tennis. With wins over Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka already in 2016, combined with this valiant effort against Murray, the rest of the ATP will be on the lookout for the big hitting Canadian.

Murray will now take advantage of the much needed day of rest after having to battle Raonic for over four hours, before taking on Djokovic in the final. Murray has played Djokovic in five of the nine grand slam finals that he has played in, but has not been able to beat him in the three finals they’ve played in Melbourne. Murray did come out victorious at the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013, and will hope to replicate those results on Sunday night in Rod Laver Arena.

Seven Matches To Remember From 2014 U.S. Open

By Randy Walker

@TennisPublisher

 

The 2014 U.S. Open will best be remembered for Serena Williams winning her 18th major title – tying fellow American legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list – and for Marin Cilic’s surprise victory, beating another long-shot finalist Kei Nishikori in the final. However, there were other standout matches that defined the event, as outlined below and as seen in the updated mobile app “This Day In Tennis” available at www.TennisHistoryApp.com

 

August 26, 2014 – Cici Bellis, 15, becomes the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 1996, upsetting No. 12 seed and Australian Open finalist Dominka Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of the U.S. Open. “Believing was the No. 1 thing that I had to do today,” says Bellis, the winner of the USTA National Girls’ 18 Championships. “That’s what my coach told me before the match also: Just go out there and believe that you can win.” Bellis becomes the youngest player to win at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova reached the fourth round at age 15 in 1996.

September 2, 2014 – Kei Nishikori defeats Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 in four hours, 19 minutes in a fourth-round match at the U.S. Open that ends at 2:26 am, tying the tournament’s record for the latest finish. Nishikori and Raonic’s finish at the exact time as the 2012 match when Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated John Isner and the 1993 match when Mats Wilander defeated Mikael Pernfors. When asked by reporters if he was impressed by the late finish record, Raonic responds, “Not in the slightest bit.”

September 4, 2014 – Roger Federer saves two match points and rallies to beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in a dramatic U.S. Open quarterfinal that concludes just before midnight. Monfils leads 5-4 in the fourth set and holds two match points before Federer fights back to win in a comfortable fifth set, coming back from 0-2 down for the ninth time in his career. “I feel lucky to be able to do a press conference as the winner instead of the loser,” Federer tells reporters. “But I’m also proud that I fought and stayed with him. The problem was that I was just one point from the end.”

September 5, 2014 – Bob and Mike Bryan win their 100th career doubles title defeating Marcel Granoller and Marc Lopez 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth U.S. Open final. “It’s always sweet winning a Grand Slam,” Mike Bryan says after the final. “This just adds some extra whip cream and cherries and nuts on top.”

September 6, 2014 – In one of the most shocking semifinals in U.S. Open history, both the No. 1 and No. 2 men’s seeds are upset as No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic is defeated by No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 and No. 2 seed Roger Federer is defeated by No. 14 Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

September 7, 2014 – Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open for a sixth time and for a third year in a row defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. At age 32, Williams becomes the oldest woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era and also earns her 18th major singles title, tying her for fourth place all time with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who congratulate her on court during the post-match ceremonies and present her with a Tiffany bracelet.

September 8, 2014 – Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded No. 14, becomes one of the most unexpected U.S. Open champions in history, winning his first major title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, who upset world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, becomes the first man from Asia to play in a Grand Slam final.

Looking Ahead To The Start Of The ATP World Tour In 2014

by Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

As we are are now at the end of the ATP tennis season, I thought it would be good to assess how the beginning of the ATP season is looking heading into next year.

We start off as always Down Under, with the Heineken Open in New Zealand, and the Sydney International, before the first grand slam of the year. As this is the start of the year, it usually takes the big names some time to build up speed. So we may see some new names as winners of the year’s first couple of tournaments. Some we could see include; Jercy Janowicz, Milos Raonic and Stanislas Wawrinka. All of whom have been performing steadily better this year. One name I sadly don’t think we will see though is Bernard Tomic. Touted a few years back as the next Lleyton Hewitt, after a run to the Wimbeldon Quarters, he has failed to live up to expectations. He does definitely have a lot of talent though, and has a decent serve. Maybe in 2015 I think he will return to good form, but in 2014 I don’t think he will be quite there yet. David Ferrer will feature in Auckland, and should perform strongly there. He has won the tournament in the past, and he could win again.

The Australian Open has been Novak Djokovic’s domain during the past few years. And judging by his form finishing this season, I would not count him out. Some interesting possible records could emerge from a few of the regulars. Roger Federer of course will going for his eighteenth grand slam. Although his 2013 year has been poor, he does still have the potential for winning another. A lot of experts have said that he will have the best chance of doing so at Wimbledon. But I don’t agree with that assessment. If you look at his record at the Australian Open, he has not failed to reach the semi-finals since 2003. I expect that we will see a strong showing from the great man. Novak Djokovic is going for his fifth title, which would be a stand-alone record. And Nadal meanwhile, is going for a two-time career Grand Slam and would join Rod Laver in that category.

Why I think that Federer will play well at the Australian is for a couple of reasons. Firstly of course, is his record there, having won the tournament four times. Mostly though, I think that the off-season break will be hugely beneficial for him. He has been plagued by injuries this year, and you do have to wonder if he has not yet gotten fully over them. The off-season should do him a world of good. Novak Djokovic’s record at the Australian is stellar, and he would be regarded as possibly the greatest Aussie Open (male) champion in the open era, if he was to win there again. His form at the end of this season is unbelievable. You do have to question though whether he can keep winning. I suspect that next season we may see his streak broken. Nadal will benefit from playing on Rebound Ace, as it is a slower surface than indoor hard (where he has never done well). If he was reach the latter stages of the tournament, especially the final, I think he will win. Nadal has legendary mental toughness, and on the biggest stages there is perhaps none better. Andy Murray also, should not be counted out. He has made three finals, and would love to grab a win. He is an all-court player, and the days when many thought he couldn’t win on the big stage are long gone.
The Australian though, is notorious for throwing us surprises. Everyone will remember the Tsonga run back in 2008. And before that there was Gonzalez in 2007, Baghdadis in 2006, and way back in 2001, Thomas Johansson went one step further by winning it. The potential surprise run I’m going with next year (although it wouldn’t be really) is Juan Martin Del Potro. Since he won the US a few years ago, he has been plagued by injuries. But this season he has hit form again. He plays best on hard courts as well, with his strong ground strokes and booming serve. A mentally tough Nadal against an in-form Del Potro in the final would be quite a match.

Anyway, I would just like to say that I hope you all enjoyed my first blog. I hope that I will have created some debate.

A Year of Firsts for Milos Raonic and Canada

By Mark McCormick

 

Canada, a country that is so passionate for hockey, has had their eyes on tennis lately. Tennis? Canada is one of the coldest countries in the world, but that hasn’t stopped the rapid rise of tennis star Milos Raonic from training. The 2013 season has been a groundbreaking year for the young Canadian, cracking into the world’s top 10 for the first time in Canadian tennis history, reaching his first Masters 1000 Series final, and leading his country to the Davis Cup semifinals.

In an interview with AskMen, Raonic talks about his rise in Canadian tennis. “The pressure is really what you make of it, and I like to make more for myself than anyone else will, so I always push myself. The responsibility I have is a great thing, from helping tennis grow in Canada, but also in the future, being able to do stuff through my foundation, helping kids. And helping everyone I can, and really trying to make a difference.”

The 22-year-old is one of the youngest in the top 100, and has shown no signs of stumbling in the rankings. The 6’5” Canadian has a booming serve, and a big forehand. The powerful shots that Raonic possesses show a glimpse of what could possibly be the future of tennis.

Earlier in the summer this year, Raonic hired former top player Ivan Ljubicic as his full time head coach. Ljubicic’s work with Raonic has shown positive results. The months of August and September were important for Raonic. In the big matches he played, however, he didn’t make that big step. When Raonic reached his first Masters 1000 Series finals in Montreal in August, he had Canada on his back. The final for Raonic was a bit of a disappointment for Canadian fans, when Raonic fell 6-2 6-2 to Rafael Nadal. Granted, he was playing against one of the greatest players of all time, but this was a big chance to make a statement. Sadly, his nerves got the best of him.

A couple weeks later, he made the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. He reached the fourth round there last year, and had a legitimate chance to get into his first Grand Slam quarterfinal ever. He was playing against world No. 9 Richard Gasquet. Gasquet hadn’t been in a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam since 2007. Raonic dictated for most of the match, until fatigue came in late in the fourth set. Raonic was leading two sets to one, with several break points to go up a break early in the fifth set, but failed to capitalize again.

Nine days after his exit at the U.S. Open, Raonic led the Canadian tennis team into its first Davis Cup semifinal in over a century. Canada held a 2-1 lead going into the final day of the semi’s, but fell 3-2, with Raonic losing to Djokovic in the fourth rubber.

A wild stretch of firsts for Raonic ended in disappointments, but his run isn’t going to end yet this year.

En Bangkok, en route to the title, Raonic dismantled Feliciano Lopez in straight sets 6-4 6-3. His statistics were off the charts. Raonic had 19 aces serving at 86% for the whole match, and gave up eight points on his serve the whole match!

Raonic’s best surface is indoor hard courts. The post U.S. Open Asia swing is mostly played on hard courts and indoor hard courts. The Paris Masters is a big event for Raonic to make a deep run in. This tournament is played indoors, and is the one Masters 1000 tournament that lacks the most top players. His confidence is high still despite tough losses, and has a legitimate shot at making the ATP World Tour Year End Finals, which is also played indoors.

What does 2014 hold for Raonic? Big things. His unforced errors have cut down immensely, especially on his backhand. His inside out forehand is huge on the return game. His main focus in the off season has to be working on his return game. If Raonic can get more balls into play on the return, he has a better chance of getting into rallies, and trying to put himself into position to run around a forehand and put the ball away.

Raonic opens up his 2014 season at the Brisbane International, where he will be one of the top seeds going into the event. He lost in the second round last year in Brisbane, so he will have a chance at gaining points to boost his ranking. He’ll get a week after Brisbane to recuperate and head into the Australian Open most likely as a top 16 seed. This time, he’ll have a more favorable draw at the Grand Slam he plays best at. If he gets matched up in any of the top 8’s quarters except Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, he will have a serious shot at making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

From the Asia swing to mid-February, Raonic can make his statement known on the hard courts. His chances of cracking into the top 8 are very likely. He has already proven to tennis fans how much of a threat he is from his results this summer. It may be a slight surprise to see his name ranked among the names of Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal, but come February, it may happen. Don’t be surprised if you see the name Milos Raonic on sports headlines in mid-January, because his hard work and talent is going to be known to all sports fans very soon.

 

Citi Open Thursday Gallery: Del Potro, Cornet, Rybarikova Through

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thursday at the Citi Open saw two-time champion Juan Martin del Potro, French woman Alize Cornet, defending women’s champion Magdalena Rybarikova, Marinko Matosevic and Sorana Cirstea among the winners. Others in the gallery include Alison Riske, Milos Raonic and more.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

[nggallery id=150]

From Continent to Continent: ATP Washington and Kitzbuhel Previews

While the WTA divides its action between two coasts this week, the ATP spans the Atlantic Ocean with events on two different continents and surfaces.  The 500 tournament in Washington, part of the US Open Series, takes center stage.

Washington:

Top half:  A champion in Washington four years ago, Juan Martin Del Potro holds the top seed at the 2013 edition.  The Wimbledon semifinalist hopes to rediscover his torrid form against one of two men who shone in Atlanta.  Producing semifinal runs there last week, Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison will square off in one of the most intriguing first-round matches.  Nor can Del Potro relax if he survives the winner.  A strong grass season, highlighted by a second-week appearance at Wimbledon, will have restored Bernard Tomic’s confidence.  Although he continues to cope with controversy surrounding his father, Tomic has plenty of ways to disrupt Del Potro’s rhythm if the Argentine returns rusty from a leg injury.  A more straightforward test awaits from Kevin Anderson, seeking his third semifinal in three weeks.  Before he meets Del Potro in the quarterfinals, Anderson may find the returning Mardy Fish an opponent worthy of his steel.

If power dominates the top quarter, flair defines much of the second quarter.  The flamboyant shot-making of Tommy Haas favors precision over physicality, while the graceful one-handed backhand of Grigor Dimitrov has a vintage appeal.  Haas reached the final in Washington last year, perhaps using his training at the Bolletieri Academy in Florida as experience for coping with the humidity.  But power never lags far behind in a draw filled with Americans.  Sam Querrey will face one of two Atlanta quarterfinalists, Denis Istomin or Santiago Giraldo, in the second round.   A contrast of styles would await if Querrey advances to face Dimitrov and then Haas, although a 5-8 record since April leaves a deep run far from guaranteed.

Semifinal:  Del Potro vs. Haas

Bottom half:  Filled with question marks, the third quarter could produce a surprise semifinalist.  The favorite at first glance would seem Milos Raonic, by far the most powerful of the seeds.  Raonic’s massive serve could sizzle on a hot hard court, but he has accomplished little since winning yet another San Jose title in February.  Neither has fellow seed Nikolay Davydenko, who has struggled historically against possible second-round opponent James Blake.  Some of Gilles Simon’s best results have come in North America, including a Miami quarterfinal this spring, and the fifth seed’s steadiness might suffice to ease him past the erratic men around him.  Among them is former champion Radek Stepanek, who looks forward to American collegiate star Steve Johnson in his opener.

One might lose sight of defending champion Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth quarter.  Not a threat for most of 2013, Dolgopolov faces an arduous route towards a title defense.  Home hope John Isner looms in the third round if he can revive his energy after a draining title run in Atlanta.  An easier route to the quarterfinals beckons for Kei Nishikori, who won a North American 500 tournament at Memphis this year.  Bogota runner-up Alejandro Falla faded quickly in Atlanta, as did American teenage sensation Jack Sock.  The clean, balanced baseline game of Nishikori should carry him past either of those opponents, after which a first meeting with Isner could await.

Semifinal:  Simon vs. Isner

Final:  Del Potro vs. Isner

Kitzbuhel:

Top half:  An assortment of Europeans and clay specialists have headed to this Austrian event before venturing into the steamy American summer.  German top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber aims to move one round further than he did at another clay 250 event.  The finalist in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, Kohlschreiber can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Spanish dirt devil Marcel Granollers.  This Rome quarterfinalist will welcome the opportunity to erase memories of an epic loss in Gstaad last week.  Between them stand Horacio Zeballos of Nadal-defeating fame and Wimbledon surprise Kenny de Schepper, who reached the second week there.

A greater Wimbledon surprise than de Schepper came from Fernando Verdasco, who would not hold the third seed here if not for his quarterfinal appearance at the last major.  To his credit, Verdasco parlayed that breakthrough into a strong July, highlighted by victories over Nicolas Almagro, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jerzy Janowicz.  An all-lefty matchup against Brazilian clay specialist Thomaz Bellucci should not detain him for long en route to a rematch of the Bastad final.  At that Swedish tournament, Verdasco fell to Carlos Berlocq, who faces an extremely challenging assignment as the fifth seed.  Days after defeating Federer, the ominous Daniel Brands sets his sights on the Bastad champion.  Also in this deep section is Robin Haase, arriving from a series of morale-boosting wins in Gstaad.

Semifinal:  Granollers vs. Verdasco

Bottom half:   A week of mixed omens for Albert Montanes in Umag included an upset over world No. 9 Richard Gasquet and a tight loss to Gasquet’s compatriot Gael Monfils.  Twice a semifinalist on clay already this summer, Victor Hanescu finds himself on a collision course with Montanes, who won a clay title in Nice just before Roland Garros.  The winner should feel confident heading into the quarterfinals, although home hope Jurgen Melzer will have most of the audience behind him.  Melzer reached the second week of Wimbledon but has lost five consecutive clay matches dating back to Monte Carlo.

Arguably the softest section, the base of the Kitzbuhel draw lies at the mercy of second seed Juan Monaco.  This recent member of the top 10 has shown altogether too much mercy in 2013, helplessly watching his ranking decline.  All the same, Monaco has produced at least somewhat respectable tennis this summer on clay, his best surface.  Three qualifiers and a wildcard offer little competition, so any challenge would need to come from one of two Spaniards.  While Daniel Gimeno-Traver has struggled on clay this year, Roberto Bautista-Agut retired last week in Gstaad.  Monaco thus looks safe unless he implodes, admittedly not unthinkable.

Semifinal:  Montanes vs. Monaco

Final:  Verdasco vs. Montanes

Gallery: Opening Weekend at Citi Open with Del Potro, Petkovic, Raonic, Haas and More

Play is already in full swing as qualifiers took to the courts for their matches, and top players like Juan Martin del Potro, Andrea Petkovic and Tommy Haas hit the practice courts on a hot weekend in Washington, D.C. to kick off the Citi Open.

Check out the full gallery from opening weekend, including other players like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Irina Falconi, Jessica Pegula, Rhyne Williams, Donald Young, Christian Harrison, Caroline Garcia, Matt Ebden, and Sloane Stephens.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

[nggallery id=144]