If the day belonged to anyone, it was world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. But the night? The night belonged to Canada.
Milos Raonic made his 2016 Rogers Cup debut Wednesday night, the first match he’s played since the Wimbledon final he fell short in against Andy Murray just over two weeks ago.
It was a demonstrative affair for the world No. 7 and his booming serve, a 6-3, 6-3 walkabout against world No. 70 Yen-Hsun Lu, who can be a dangerous foe. But Raonic reveled in the Canadian evening glow throughout, thanking the Toronto crowd and offering a “It’s good to be home” in his post-match interview.
Good to be home for 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov, as well, who 48 hours ago delivered one of the most shocking upsets of the tennis season when he put out No. 11 seed Nick Kyrgios in three sets before a thunderous Centre Court crowd.
Shapovalov followed Raonic on court Wednesday evening, the Canadian flag swaying in the wind behind him as he walked on, a smile plastered to his face. That smile would fade eventually, however, as Grigor Dimitrov found his way past the teen, 6-4, 6-3.
While there was no ‘W’ next to Shapovalov’s name at the end of this night, he walks away from a month of tennis having won junior Wimbledon and then scored his first-ever ATP World Tour main draw match win.
One would call that success, including Raonic.
“It’s an exciting time for Canadian tennis,” Raonic told reporters. “It’s a big spotlight, so it’s a pleasure to share. I think it’s the start of it. I think it’s going to continue to get better.”
Top seed and three-time Rogers Cup champion Djokovic was made to work by veteran Gilles Muller in the afternoon session, a 7-5, 7-6(3) winner.
Fresh off his Wimbledon upset earlier this month, Djokovic was invited to talk about what his French Open win meant, the victory that gave him – finally – the career Grand Slam.
“It was a divine sensation to experience, honestly,” he said, smiling.
While Djokovic and Raonic held form on Wednesday, it was a wild day elsewhere for seeded favourites. Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, John Isner and Lucas Pouille all fell to lower-ranked opponents, the American to countryman Ryan Harrison. Four U.S. men are in round three, however, including surprises Rajeev Ram (who beat Pouille) and Jared Donaldson. They join Harrison and No. 16 seed, Jack Sock.
Seeds Kei Nishikori, David Goffin, Gael Monfils (who beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil) and Bernard Tomic advanced, while No. 2 Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych had already booked their round of 16 places on Tuesday.
It’s actually not just Denis who’s had a breakthrough week. Donaldson, an American, is just 19 and into his first-ever Masters 1000 third round. Harrison, still only 24, has been resurgent again, and Sock is still only 23, as well.
Generation… now? Denis understands it’s a process.
“Every week is not going to be like this. [There are] going to be ups and downs,” Shapovalov said. “Next week is a new week. I’m going to go out and play every match the same way I do here and see how it goes. But obviously I’m going to try my best, fight every point and see where it goes.”
— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) July 28, 2016