Canadian Milos Raonic hammered a dozen aces to open the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday in Cincinnati with a defeat of Richard Gasquet 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Gasquet, who made the finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Sunday, was unable to maintain any momentum against Raonic's attack.
"I was hoping to play a little bit better last week," said Raonic, referring to his early exit from the Rogers Cup. "Coming here I'm playing better. I still have a long ways to go, but I feel like I'm on the right track.
"I just need to do a few things better, and I think I will be setting myself on the right course."
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., will next face former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-4, 6-3.
Raonic saved all four of the break points he faced in the 90-minute win on Tuesday, a day after reaching his career-high No. 19 ranking which assures him a solid ranking when the US Open begins Aug. 27.
"I need to create a little bit with my serve," said Raonic. "I was able to get ahead [Tuesday], but I wasn't picking up enough free points. I wasn't hitting the spots exactly."
Raonic will try to improve his record to 2-0 over Baghdatis, whom he beat indoors in Stockholm last October in a first round.
The Canadian said he need to exploit his game more if he is to make a breakthrough into the ATP top 10 and beyond.
"There is always a window [of opportunity]. I have seen openings in let's say the window, but I have sort of just been like sliding it open slowly," said Raonic. "I just need to sort of kick through and go for it and just try to make the most of it. I think there will be opportunities.
"Lately it's been pretty predictable within the top three and top four. It's tennis, it's sport, you never know."
Meanwhile Andy Roddick developed back spasms during his opening match, setting up a two-set loss that left questions about his health heading into the U.S. Open.
He got treatment for his back during the second set of his 7-6 (4), 6-3 loss to France's Jeremy Chardy, who replaced injured No. 9 seed John Isner. Roddick had won all three of his career matches against Chardy.
Tenth-seeded Mardy Fish beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3, while Tommy Haas beat David Nalbandian 6-7 (0), 7-6 (4), 6-3 in 3 hours, 22 minutes, equaling the longest non-Olympic match this season on the ATP tour
Venus Williams is trying to get in position to make a deep run at the U.S. Open, from which she had to withdraw last year because of an immune system disease that causes fatigue and sore joints. She beat 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in a match that lasted 2 hours, 23 minutes, serving 11 aces.
Sister Serena Williams beat Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-3, 6-4, overcoming 42 unforced errors.
In other matches, 15th-seeded Nadia Petrova retired with dizziness while trailing fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (8), 3-1. Third-seeded Samantha Stosur fell behind 4-0 in the third set before rallying for a 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4 victory over Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues, a match that took 2 hours, 37 minutes.
No. 5 Angelique Kerber beat Timea Babos of Hungary 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a second-round match.With files from The Associated Press