Canada’s Milos Raonic downs Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 to advance at Rogers Cup

MONTREAL — Milos Raonic is off to the second round of the Rogers Cup.

The hard-serving Canadian defeated Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 in first-round action Monday on the centre court of Montreal’s IGA Stadium.

Raonic, who has struggled with various injuries this season, dispatched his opponent in one hour 12 minutes.

Ranked 20th on the ATP Tour, Raonic broke Pouille in the third game of the first set and held serve from there — thanks in large part to 10 aces.

The 28-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., then broke Pouille again in the fifth game of the second set before closing things out in tidy fashion on home soil, finishing with 16 aces.

Raonic lost the 2013 Rogers Cup final against Rafael Nadal at the same venue.

He also fell to the 29th-ranked Pouille in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open back in January, but improved to 4-1 all-time against the Frenchman with Monday’s win.

Raonic was originally supposed to open against Taylor Fritz of the United States, but was bumped to the other side of the bracket when South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, the ninth seed, pulled out of the US$5.7-million ATP Tour Masters 1000 series event.

Raonic will now face either Montreal native and rising teenage star Felix Auger-Aliassime (ranked 22nd) or Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil, who play on Tuesday.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., was scheduled to take on 38th-ranked Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France later Monday.

The 20-year-old Shapovalov, who sits 31st in the world, captivated tennis fans in Montreal two years ago when he upset Nadal in a memorable third-round match.

A four-time Rogers Cup champion following his victory in Toronto last year, Nadal is the tour’s No. 2-ranked player and the clear favourite with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer skipping this year’s event.

Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil took on the French duo of Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin in doubles Monday afternoon.

The 207th-ranked Pospisil reached the semifinals in Montreal in 2013, defeating No. 6 Tomas Berdych before falling to Raonic.

This year, however, Pospisil is a wild-card entry attempting a comeback after spending eight months recovering from a serious back problem.

In the rest of Monday’s action involving Canadians, wild-card entry Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont., took on qualifier Tommy Paul of the U.S., while Thornhill’s Peter Polansky — another wild-card addition — met France’s Gael Monfils.

Schnur is ranked 98th in the world, while Polansky sits 172nd.

The women’s side Rogers Cup bracket is being played in Toronto. The tournament alternates between the cities every year.

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