Canadian Milos Raonic is trying to start the new season even better than he did a year ago. The No.23 seed had his work cut out for him on Thursday, working his way past Philipp Petzschner 6-4 5-7 6-2 7-5 on Show Court 3. It was in Australia that Raonic qualified for the main draw last year before making a tear to the fourth round, breaking through for the first time at a slam and making tennis enthusiasts take notice. In 2012, he already has a title to his name and booked his place in the third round with the four-set, nearly three-hour win. Raonic made an impressive start to 2012 by winning the ATP stop in Chennai where he beat Top 10 players Nicolas Almagro and Janko Tipsarevic on his way to his second career title. He also won in San Jose in 2011. Thursday morning he and Petzschner, the German ranked No.63, locked horns into the early afternoon. Raonic used a break in the first game of the match to secure the first set 6-4, his serve ticking along just fine, bolstered by his forehand. Raonic won the set when he served out wide to Petzschner, then clocked a forehand winner crosscourt to take the set. But Petzschner worked his way into the match in the second, frustrating the Canadian by bringing him into net and often passing him or forcing an error. Petzschner, an accomplished doubles player, used a drop volley winner to take a 2-1 lead. “I was struggling a little bit, I don’t know why,” Raonic said. “He started well and just put a lot more pressure on me.” It was in the tenth game of the second set that Petzschner was really able to put pressure on the Raonic serve. He held three set points at 0-40 only to watch Raonic rocket three service winners at him. At 5-6, however, Raonic made a series of errors, including a backhand long when Petzschner rushed the net, giving the 27-year-old German the set, 7-5.
Petzschner fought off a break point in the fifth game of the fourth set before Raonic had to dig out of another 0-40 hole in game eight. The seeded player looked destined to close out the match when he broke in the next game, running down a drop shot to flick a spectacular crosscourt winner before forcing Petzschner into a half-volley error. But Raonic couldn’t serve it out at 5-4 in the fourth, needing to break Petzschner for the second time in as many games and the fifth time in the match in game 12. He won the tie just short of the three-hour mark when Petzschner batted a forehand long. “I know he can play really well,” Raonic explained. “My goal was really just to stick with him [until] I get my opportunities.” Raonic’s big serve provided plenty of opportunities, clocking at 225 KMH at one point in the match. Raonic bashed 15 aces to Petzschner’s 10. The two men seemingly traded stats: Raonic hit 43 winners to Petzschner’s 43 unforced errors. The German hit 37 winners to Raonic’s 38 unforced errors.
He is a name that many are keeping their eye on after he raced through the Chennai draw and seemed to have a special place in his heart for the courts at Melbourne. Counting his wins in qualifying he is 8-1 over the last two years here. But Raonic’s early success in 2011 wasn’t for nothing. He was named the tour’s Newcomer of the Year and reaching a career-high ranking of No.25 after starting the year No.152.