Tennis star Nadal praises Canada's Raonic
World No. 1 prevails 6-4, 6-4 in Japan, expects teenager to rise in rankings
Canadian teenager Milos Raonic went down to defeat at the hands of Rafael Nadal at the Japan Open on Thursday, earning a good review from the world No. 1 in the process.
Nadal, who has won three Grand Slam titles this year, dispatched the 19-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., 6-4, 6-4.
Raonic (pronounced ray-o-nich) announced his intentions from the start against Nadal, opening the match with an ace. But going down an early break, the Canadian was unable to pull back, with the Spaniard taking the set after 35 minutes on the first of three set points.
"I was putting too much pressure on myself at the beginning, overplaying a bit, not mixing up," Raonic said. "I was a bit tight and whenever I am tight I struggle with my serve.
Wozniacki rises to No. 1
Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki has captured the women's tennis No. 1 ranking, replacing American Serena Williams.
Wozniacki accomplished the feat with a 6-3, 6-2 win Thursday over Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the China Open in Beijing.
The rise to No. 1 comes in a season when Wozniacki reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open semifinals.
Wozniacki has 11 career tour singles titles under her belt and is the top seed in Beijing.
Williams pulled out of Beijing due to injury.
— Associated Press
"Then I relaxed and had opportunities in the second set."
The six-foot-five Canadian seriously threatened in the sixth game of the second set, forcing Nadal to save four break points to hold for 3-3. The Spaniard secured the break a game later and finished out the match in 72 minutes.
Nadal said the youngster shows promise.
"You can't compare big servers, everyone has their own serve," he said. "But his is unbelievable. I think he will rise in the rankings.
"Tennis seems to be getting better and better in Canada, they have some important ATP and WTA events. I'm sure he will improve fast."
Raonic used his huge serve as a weapon, hitting 14 aces and winning 85 per cent of his first-serve points against one of the game's premier returners.
"I tried to play my best tennis, you have to against a guy like him," he said. "You have to be mentally strong."
"I'm really working to lift my level," Raonic added. "If things go well, I'm hoping to be ranked high enough to even make it into the Australian Open [in January]."
His recent run in Asia, where he has posted his first victories at the senior level on tour, have boosted him more than 30 places in the rankings to No. 200.
"The week has been good for myself and Canadian tennis, my game is getting better and my goals are getting higher," Raonic said. "I have more and more motivation to work harder."
Nadal to battle Tursunov
Nadal's reward is Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in Friday's quarter-finals.
"For me, I did the things that I needed to do with the serve and return," Nadal said of the Raonic match. "He is still very young. His serve is unbelievable, and there are things he can improve."
Second-seeded American Andy Roddick also advanced to the quarter-finals, downing Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Roddick, ranked 10th in the world, is playing his first ATP tournament since losing in the second round of the U.S. Open. He served only five aces to six for Chardy, but won 83 per cent of his first-serve points.
Roddick will play fifth-seeded Gael Monfils of France, who beat Italy's Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4. Monfils reached the semifinals of the Japan Open last year.
Viktor Troicki beat fifth-seeded Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (3) for his first win over the Austrian, ranked 13th in the world. He will face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
The fourth quarter-final pits Finland's Jarkko Nieminen against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.