DELRAY BEACH, Florida (AFP) - Former tennis world No. 3 Milos Raonic got his 2018 off to a roaring start with a 6-1, 7-5 rout of Taro Daniel in the first round of the Delray Beach Open on Tuesday (Feb 20).
The Canadian is ranked 32nd in the world, which is vastly different than last year when he came into Delray Beach ranked fourth on the men's ATP Tour.
Injuries limited Raonic's time on the court in 2017 and this was just his second tour-level win in six months.
So his straight-set victory on Tuesday against Japan's Daniel is a sign of better days ahead as he seeks his ninth career Tour title.
"It's a good thing I was able to win today and it gives me a lot of things that I believe I can do better tomorrow," said the ninth seed.
"I just got to keep building day-by-day and working my way into it and just try to get in as many wins as possible. That's the most important thing."
Raonic has some unfinished business in Delray Beach. He advanced to the title match last year but hand to pull out against American Jack Sock because of a leg injury. He could meet Sock in the semi-finals of this event if they both win their next two matches.
He blasted nine aces, broke Daniel's serve four times and won 85 per cent of his first serve points in the 84-minute match.
"Obviously having not played a lot of matches I was going in and out a little bit with my focus and my intensity," Raonic said. "I've got to be a bit more consistent and disciplined with that."
Raonic will next face American Steve Johnson, who had lost eight of his past nine matches before ousting Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes.
That should not be a problem for the hard-serving Canuck, as he has won all three of his previous matches against journeyman Johnson.
In was a triumphant day for the Canadians as Denis Shapovalov defeated eight-time ATP tournament winner Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 7-6 (6-4).
The 18-year-old Shapovalov was just one when Karlovic, 38, won his first Davis Cup match for Croatia.
Sixth seed John Isner also got back on track in Delray Beach, avenging his loss against Moldovan Radu Albot at last week's inaugural New York Open with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win.
The American will next face Peter Gojowczyk, who won in three sets against Lukas Lacko.
Wild card Reilly Opelka stunned fellow American Ryan Harrison 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6).