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Masters: Raonic not worried about fans supporting Simon

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Mark Masters
5/29/2014 9:50:58 AM
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PARIS – Milos Raonic almost seemed offended by the question.

On Wednesday, Raonic was asked about the challenges that will come facing Frenchman Gilles Simon at the French Open on Friday with a partisan Parisian crowd likely looking to influence the outcome of the third-round match.

"The lines are the same, courts are the same, go out there and play tennis," Raonic said describing his approach.

So, a hostile crowd doesn't bother the eighth seed at all?

"I hope not," Raonic quipped.

The Thornhill, Ont. native is used to playing in enemy territory. Last year he beat Frenchman Michael Llodra, ranked 55th at the time, in four sets in the second round at Roland Garros. He beat James Blake in straight sets in the third round of the US Open in 2012 although the American did enter the match ranked 114th.
 
Raonic has fallen victim to the hometown hero at a slam, though, losing to former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in four sets at the Australian Open two years ago. But Raonic insists the Australian fans had no impact on him. 

"I think the only thing it really brought out was the best in Lleyton. I don't think it really got down on me. I have been in situations since then, I have played James in New York, so I have been in similar situations and I can't really predict, assume, or worry too much about what's going to be happening and what's going to be said. I've got to focus really on just playing."

Most recently, Raonic posted an impressive five-set marathon win over Janko Tipsarevic during Davis Cup play in Belgrade last year. He lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets a couple days later although the opening set went to a tiebreak.

"It's never easy playing Novak with a Serbian crowd. There are many situations I have already been in. I have learned from them and I just keep it within myself. I just focus on myself," the 23-year-old said.

Simon and Raonic played just once before with Raonic triumphing in a tight three-set battle in Portugal (Estoril) three years ago. 

"I played him on clay there," Raonic said. "I think I'm a much better player than I was back then, but at the same time I believe he plays much better here than he does throughout the rest of the clay events."

Simon, the 29th seed, has cruised through his first two matches of this year's French Open dropping just 11 games. In contrast, Raonic has lost 23.

"It's going to be a difficult match," Raonic said. "But I think I will have my opportunities to take control and dictate and that's going to be the most important thing."

Raonic has run into some rough patches early in his two matches in the French capital. He was forced into a tiebreaker in the opening set against Jiri Vesely on Wednesday ultimately besting the 81st-ranked Czech 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1.

"I felt like in the beginning I was just missing a little bit of intensity and I was letting him dictate a little bit too much. Then in the important moments I played the right way," Raonic explained. "At the beginning of the second, I sort of fell into the same slump a little bit with intensity, but then I feel like I did the right thing for the rest of the match and I gave myself plenty of opportunities."

Raonic was asked why, at times, intensity is an issue early in these matches.

"Sometimes you go in maybe sort of calculating, because it is three out of five, which you're a little bit unused to because [most tournaments are best of three]. I think that's really the only thing. And, also, at the beginning of matches you sort of try to find your way into it. You can't go out trying to hit close to the line, because that's never going to really work. Maybe once in a while it will, but you sort of have to find your way in. I just wasn't gradually picking it up the way I needed to during the first."

In general, though, Raonic is happy with how his tournament is progressing. He beat Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in the first round on Sunday.

"I feel like I'm playing better and I think I dealt a little bit better with it when I got things figured out as far as intensity. I held it on a little bit better where I struggled a little bit with my match three days ago."

Milos Raonic (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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