© Henk Koster

Milos Raonic defeats Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday.

Raonic Books Wawrinka Clash In Rotterdam

Shapovalov also through in straight sets

For the second time this season, Milos Raonic will meet Stan Wawrinka in the second round of a tour-level event after beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(8), 7-5 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday.

Fourth seed Raonic, who defeated Wawrinka in a four-hour epic at the Australian Open last month, won 86 per cent of first-serve points (38/44) and saved the only break point he faced against Kohlschreiber to advance after one hour and 41 minutes.

The 28-year-old Canadian trails Wawrinka 3-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but has triumphed in each of his past three matches against the Swiss. Wawrinka's most recent victory over Raonic came at this event in 2015, edging two tie-break sets to reach the championship match.

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“I got a little bit fortunate to get through that first set,” said Raonic. “I created my opportunities, kept the pressure on and the hard work paid off in the end.

“I did a lot of work in the off season and I’ve been healthy now for a bunch of weeks in a row, which has been a great feeling. I’m now trying to ride it and when I have the chance, play hard on the court and on the practice court.”

Raonic saved one break point at 5-5 in the first set, then saw three set point chances — at 6/4 and 7/6 — disappear, before an aggressive Kohlschreiber took an 8/7 lead courtesy of a deep backhand volley that Raonic struck wide. Raonic went on to clinch his fourth chance and at 5-5 in the second set cleverly drew Kohlschreiber wide before striking a forehand into space. The Canadian then closed out the match with his 21st ace.

Raonic sets up a mouth-watering second-round encounter against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, who beat Benoit Paire on Monday night.

“It’s going to be tough, particularly as our last match was four tie-breaks, across four hours, in Melbourne [at the Australian Open],” said Raonic. “I hope I will continue to play well, but maybe chance a few things that will help me.”

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Another Canadian, 10th-seeded #NextGenATP Denis Shapovalov, weathered a fightback from qualifier Franko Skugor of Croatia to eventually triumph 7-5, 6-3 in 84 minutes. Shapovalov led 4-1 in the first set, and missed out on two set point opportunities at 5-4, with Skugor serving at 15/40, before winning six straight games to a 4-0 advantage in the second set.

Shapovalov will next face Czech wild card Tomas Berdych in the second round. Berdych, the 2014 titlist, defeated Gilles Simon 7-6(8), 6-4 to improve to 22-8 in Rotterdam.

In a meeting of former finalists, Gael Monfils defeated 2017 runner-up David Goffin of Belgium 7-6(5), 7-5 in one hour and 46 minutes. The 33-year-old Frenchman, who fell to Martin Klizan in the 2016 championship match, recovered from a break down twice in the first set and rallied from a 1-4 deficit in the second set to book a second-round meeting against Andreas Seppi.

Fernando Verdasco also advanced, beating Matthew Ebden 7-5, 6-4 in 86 minutes. The Sofia Open quarter-finalist (l. to Berrettini) will meet fifth seed Daniil Medvedev or Jeremy Chardy for a place in the quarter-finals.

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