Rafael Nadal opened his summer hard court season with a good – not great – win over Britain’s Dan Evans 7-6(6), 6-4. Nadal was down 6-4 in the opening breaker before taking the last four points to grab the set lead.
Evans hung tough in a rainy second, but Nadal prevailed to his sixth straight win in Canada.
“Daniel is a player that combines an aggressive game with good hands. He’s able to read the game very well, so he knows how to play tennis in terms of tactics,” Nadal said.
“It was a tough first set. Then in the second, I was able to take advantage at the beginning, but then he broke me back. It was so important, that [next] game again to have the break.”
Rafa resumes his bid for a first hard court title defense Thursday evening against Argentine Guido Pella. The 29-year-old lefty, who is making his Canadian debut, needed a final set breaker to beat Radu Albot.
Dominic Thiem collected his first Canadian Open match win. After an 0-5 start, Thiem got on the board beating the struggling Denis Shapovalov in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Every win is special in these tournaments because it’s only against great opponents,” Thiem said. “Against Denis, it was special because he’s a local hero. All the crowd was supporting him, so it was tough.”
The Austrian now has a date with Marin Cilic on Thursday.
But the marquee match of the day belonged to Canadians Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime in a first-meeting on home soil. The teen broke early but Raonic powerfully came back in the second to level.
But back problems from earlier in the match lingered and Raonic, who’s been plagued by injuries, was unable to continue despite leveling the match. Auger-Aliassime advanced 3-6, 6-3 ret.
“I felt generally sore in my back before the match started, but it wasn’t something I was too concerned about. It started going down my leg pretty early into one of my service games,” said Raonic, a former finalist at the event. “The last 30 minutes of that match, just because of the situation we’re playing in, being prime time night match here in Montreal, were probably the least enjoyable 30 minutes I’ve spent on a tennis court.”
Added the teen, “It was tough to see Milos’ face. He’s a good friend of mine. I remember when we crossed after the second set, I could feel he was pretty sad about something. It wasn’t fun to see him like that,” he said. “At the end of the day I wish it’s not too bad because it’s tough to see him go out like that.”
On his 19th birthday (the same as Roger Federer’s), Auger-Aliassime will take on 2018 semifinalist Karen Khachanov who edged Stan Wawrinka in three.
“Whether it is my birthday or not, it doesn’t change the preparation for my match. Of course, it would be a beautiful gift for me to be able to go to the quarter-finals,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I have a memory when I was a kid that there was a cake for Federer, because it was his birthday. It’s the same date for me. I thought, ‘Well, I would love to play on centre court and have a cake on centre court.’ When you’re eight years old, it seems incredible to get a cake on centre court.”
Breakout star and runner-up from a year ago Stefanos Tsitsipas was shown the exits by Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“It’s a huge win. Stefanos is an amazing player… I’m so happy that I won,” Hurkacz said. “I think I served really well today, that helped me a lot.”
Elsewhere, Gael Monfils set up a Hurkacz battle by eating Ilya Ivashka. Richard Gasquet upended Kei Nishikori, he’ll now face Roberto Bautista Agut.
And John Isner fell to Christian Garin in a surprise. The Chilean will face Daniil Medvedev tomorrow.
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