BARCELONA, Spain — Canadian Milos Raonic overcame chilly temperatures to defeat German Simon Greul 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) and advance to the third round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday.
The 15th seed from Thornhill, Ont. will face 56th-ranked Croatian Ivan Dodig on Thursday after Dodig stunned third-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 6-4. Raonic, 20, and Dodig, five years his senior, have never played before.
Raonic is seeded at an ATP tournament for the first time in his career and improved his record this year to 20 wins against six losses.
Raonic fired 10 aces in the 2 1/2-hour match. He led 6-2 in the final set tiebreaker but had to hold off a spirited rally from his opponent before securing the victory. “It was really ugly,” said Raonic.
“The key was to somehow keep it together.
“I was really lucky in the end. It was getting difficult at the end. I hope I have the chance to recover properly and play better (Thursday). I’m just happy I came through.”
The match went late into the night at the Real Club de Tenis in a city Raonic often trains with his Spanish coach Galo Blanco.
Raonic, ranked a career-best 28th in the world, found himself in trouble in the second game when he was forced to save four break points to hold serve. He salvaged the fourth break point with an ace to tie it 1-1.
Greul, a qualifier ranked 125th, beat Raonic two months ago in Johannesburg. That match taught the Canadian a valuable lesson about holding his temper after an on-court explosion drew the wrath of his coach.
On Wednesday, Raonic showed just how far he’s come mentally, serving up a pair of opening-set games at love before registering a break for a 4-3 lead.
Raonic, who won his first title in San Jose, Calif., in February, calmly consolidated his margin after 29 minutes on his first set point.
Greul began a serious rally in the second set with a break for a 3-2 lead but that was short-lived. Raonic broke back to tie it 3-3 before holding serve for a 4-3 advantage.
But Raonic couldn’t close out a straight-set win as Greul rallied to force the third set.
The two players stay on serve in the deciding set with Gruel holding for a tiebreaker, Raonic’s first on clay on the ATP Tour.