Raonic advances, Djokovic and Wawrinka eliminated

Photo: The Canadian Press

Canada's Milos Raonic advanced to the quarter-finals at the Rogers Cup on Thursday with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Julien Benneteau of France.

The sixth seed from Thornhill, Ont., used his impressive power game to his advantage on a comfortable, breezy evening at Rexall Centre. Raonic showed off his booming serve to take the first game at love and his punishing ground strokes gave Benneteau trouble throughout the match.

There were two upsets earlier in the day at the Masters 1000 series tournament. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France defeated top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-2 while South Africa's Kevin Anderson upset third-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (8), 7-5.

With a near-capacity crowd cheering him on, Raonic had little trouble in the opening set. He was pushed to deuce at one point but a volley winner and 221 km/h service winner gave him the hold and a 4-3 lead.

In the following game, Raonic landed a scorching forehand in the corner to set up a break point and took the game when Benneteau made an unforced error. He closed out the set when the ball struck the net tape and softly landed on Benneteau's side.

The Frenchman was more aggressive in the second set and it paid off with a pair of service breaks. Benneteau broke for a 4-2 lead but Raonic answered with a break of his own to get back on serve.

With a 5-4 lead, Benneteau earned another break point and forced a deciding set when Raonic's volley found the net.

Raonic wasn't fazed and swept the first four points for an early break. He had another break opportunity at 4-2 but Benneteau held to stay within a game.

The Frenchman fought off three match points in the penultimate game before Raonic closed it out on his serve to complete the win in one hour 47 minutes.

Raonic will next play either fourth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych or Spain's Feliciano Lopez.

Earlier, Djokovic was unable to settle into his usual rhythm and it proved costly against Tsonga. The 13th seed from France needed only 63 minutes to complete a resounding 6-2, 6-2 victory.

"Just nothing was going," Djokovic said. "No baseline, no serve, no return. So (it was) just generally (a) very bad day, very poor performance. (I) couldn't do much."

Tsonga had only had eight aces, but Djokovic continually struggled to keep his returns in bounds. Tsonga closed out the victory when Djokovic returned a serve wide.

A visibly elated Tsonga did some shadow boxing and jumped up and down before waving to the receptive crowd.

"It's not every day you get the rewards of what you're doing every day during the year," he said. "You leave your family, practise every day hard, suffer a lot on the court. And when you win a match like this, you just feel good."

Djokovic barely got by Gael Monfils of France a day earlier, needing a third-set tiebreaker to avoid a loss in his tournament opener. He came into Thursday's match with 11 straight wins over Tsonga, but was nowhere near adding a 12th.

The three-time Rogers Cup champ said he didn't feel comfortable in either match on the fast hardcourt.

"I wasn't hitting the ball clean and a lot of unforced errors," Djokovic said. "It's maybe (a) lack of matches on this surface and well, it takes time. Let's just say it's going to be better, I'm sure."

Later Thursday, second-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland was scheduled to play 15th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia. The winner will take on fifth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain, who defeated Ivan Dodig of Croatia 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Tsonga will play No. 8 Andy Murray of Britain in the quarter-finals. Murray advanced when Richard Gasquet of France withdrew due to an abdominal strain.

Djokovic, who beat Federer in last month's Wimbledon final, planned to maximize his time on the practice court over the next few days as he gets ready for next week's tournament in Cincinnati ahead of the U.S. Open at the end of the month.

"Obviously I'm disappointed that I lost this early in the tournament, but on the other hand I had a tough draw yesterday and today again. Tsonga played (at) a very high level, great quality shots.

"All I can say is well done and I have to move on."

Anderson, meanwhile, will next play seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who beat No. 17 Tommy Robredo 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

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