Australian Open 2018

Shock defeat ruins Raonic comeback bid

Alexander Zverev and Thomas Fabbiano study a replay during the German's 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win yesterday. Zverev patted his opponent on the back before returning to his own side.
Alexander Zverev and Thomas Fabbiano study a replay during the German's 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win yesterday. Zverev patted his opponent on the back before returning to his own side.PHOTO: REUTERS
The unseeded Slovak Lukas Lacko beat 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist and former world No. 3 Milos Raonic 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
The unseeded Slovak Lukas Lacko beat 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist and former world No. 3 Milos Raonic 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Former world No. 3 a first-round loser, but Djokovic and Federer get straight-sets wins

MELBOURNE • Milos Raonic said that he would go back to the drawing board after Lukas Lacko sent him packing in the first round of the Australian Open, the former world No. 3's earliest Grand Slam exit since the 2011 French Open.

The Canadian, on the comeback trail after a 2017 season disrupted by injury, looked off the pace as he was picked apart 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 4-6, 6-7 (4-7) by the world No. 86.

"I was not prepared for this situation so I will take a whole new review," Raonic said yesterday.

"I was hoping I would be able to work my way in (to the tournament) but that's not the case."

He had reached the last eight in his last three visits to Melbourne, making the semi-finals in 2016, and his ability to fire down thunderous aces kept him in the contest until the fourth set tie-break.

Two aces, taking his match tally to 36, briefly gave the 22nd seed a 4-3 lead, but he was unable to match the Slovak's accuracy and mobility.

  • DAY 2 SELECTED RESULTS

  • MEN, 1ST RD: Fernando Verdasco (Esp) bt Roberto Bautista (Esp) 6-1 7-5 7-5, Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Ricardas Berankis (Ltu) 6-3 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-2) David Goffin (Bel) bt Matthias Bachinger (Ger) 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-2 6-4, Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Jaume Munar (Esp) 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 Chung Hyeon (Kor) bt Mischa Zverev (Ger) 6-2 4-1 ret, Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Guido Pella (Arg) 6-4 6-4 6-4.

    WOMEN, 1ST RD: Johanna Konta (Gbr) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-3 6-1, Karolina Pliskova (Cze) bt Veronica Cepede (Par) 6-3 6-4, Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Anna-Lena Friedsam (Ger) 6-0 6-4, Caroline Garcia (Fra) bt Carina Witthoeft (Ger), 7-5 6-3, Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) bt Oceane Dodin (FRA) 6-3 7-6 (7-5), Naomi Osaka (Jpn) bt Kristina Kucova (Svk) 7-5 6-2.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Raonic has struggled since reaching last year's Wimbledon quarter-finals and he missed the US Open with a wrist injury. He then hurt his calf in Tokyo in October and injured his knee in November, cutting short his off-season training.

"I'm not where I need to be at," Raonic, now ranked 23rd, added.

"I struggled physically, but thankfully not through injury. Just in terms of fitness and being prepared. I was just not sharp, not quick, not hitting hard or aggressive and couldn't dictate."

While Raonic struggled with fitness, six-time champion Novak Djokovic looked his old self as he powered to a convincing victory on his return from an elbow injury.

The 12-time Grand Slam winner, seeded an unfamiliar 14, was too strong for American Donald Young, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Margaret Court Arena.

The Serb, president of the Players' Council, dismissed suggestions that he is pushing to create an independent players' union to fight for more prize money, and denied media reports it could lead to tournament boycotts.

"Not much of what you have wrote is true. There was no talks about boycott or anything like that," the 30-year-old said.

  • MELBOURNE PARK SNIPPETS

    STAT OF THE DAY

    19-0

    Roger Federer's first-round record at the Australian Open after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Aljaz Bedene - the most wins without a defeat by any man in the Open era at any Grand Slam tournament.

The reports also suggested he had demanded officials from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which runs the men's Tour but not the Grand Slams, and Tennis Australia leave a players' meeting last Friday.

"What happened is that we, players, just wanted to have us players talk about certain topics," Djokovic added. "We wanted to use this opportunity to speak about certain subjects and see how everyone reacts. There were no decisions made."

In other first-round matches yesterday, defending champion Roger Federer got quickly into his majestic stride with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Slovenian Aljaz Bedene.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, eliminated Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2).

 

STILL THE SAME ME

My brother still makes fun of me. My mum is still there. Dad is still there. My dog doesn't even realise who I am, so you know, nothing changes at home.

'' ALEXANDER ZVEREV, the world No. 4 who beat Thomas Fabbiano 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, on how life at home has not changed despite a brilliant 2017.

In the women's draw, Maria Sharapova defeated Germany's Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 in her first match in Melbourne since 2016.

The Russian star tested positive for performance-enhancing meldonium at the Australian Open two years ago and only returned from a 15-month doping ban last April.

World No. 1 Simona Halep came from 2-5 and a set point down against Australian teenager Destanee Aiava to win 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Shock defeat ruins Raonic comeback bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe