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Canada's Raonic beats Kecmanovic for first ATP Tour win in almost two years

Milos Raonic Milos Raonic - The Canadian Press

'S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands — Canada's Milos Raonic made a successful return to the ATP Tour on Monday, defeating Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4 at the Libema Open for his first victory in nearly two years.

Raonic needed one hour 24 minutes to complete the first-round win at the outdoor grass-court tournament.

"It's nice to be giving it one more try and hopefully going as far as I can," Raonic said. "I’ve put in the best effort I could and I want to see how far it takes me."

The 32-year-old has missed time of late due to Achilles tendon and toe injuries. His last tour match was a three-set loss to American Brandon Nakashima in July 2021.

Raonic entered the 32-man main draw thanks to his provisional ranking. The ATP 250-level tournament is headlined by Russia's Daniil Medvedev and Italy's Jannik Sinner.

“It’s been a real pleasure to get to play in front of people," Raonic said. "I didn’t get to hit a single tennis ball for a full year, now I get to play in front of a bunch of people. It was pretty nerve-racking, I forgot that feeling.

"To be honest with you it might have been a little bit easier if I played in front of nobody today.”

The Canadian had a 15-4 edge in aces against his No. 39-ranked opponent and won 92 per cent of his first-service points.

Raonic improved to 3-0 in head-to-head meetings against Kecmanovic. The other victories came on outdoor hardcourts in 2019.

Raonic will play either Australia's Jordan Thompson or French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard in the second round.

In women's play, Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont., posted a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) win over Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium. The Canadian will play top-seeded Veronika Kudermetova in the round of 16.

Sixth-seeded Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., was scheduled to play her opening match Tuesday against Turkey's Zeynep Sonmez.

Raonic was No. 22 in the world when he last played on tour. His career-high was No. 3 in 2016, the year he became the first Canadian in the modern era to reach a Grand Slam men's singles final.

Raonic beat Roger Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon that year before falling to Andy Murray in the final.

Armed with a cannon of a serve, the six-foot-five right-hander from Thornhill, Ont., turned pro in 2008 and broke through on the ATP Tour in 2011.

Raonic won in San Jose that year, the first of three straight titles at that indoor hardcourt event. He was voted ATP Newcomer of the Year in 2011 and won eight ATP crowns between '11 and 2016.

Injuries have been a regular problem for Raonic over the years. He has also had to overcome hip, foot, quadriceps and back woes over his career.

“It’s been a little heartbreaking a lot of the time when I couldn’t do anything and it’s nice for me to be here one more time," he said. "I get the chance to be on court, I get the chance to play, I get the chance to compete, to put in the work and I get a chance to see how far it takes me, so I’m thankful."

Raonic represented Canada at the 2012 London Olympics and when active has been a regular on the country's Davis Cup team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2023.