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Milos Raonic beaten by Soonwoo Kwon in New York Open

Milos Raonic with the backhand return against Soonwoo

Milos Raonic with the backhand return against Soonwoo Kwon during their mens singles match at the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Milos Raonic served 33 aces in his New York Open second-round match against Soonwoo Kwon. But Kwon had an ace in the hole.

The 22-year-old Korean’s dogged determination, not to mention some nifty groundstrokes and blanket court coverage, earned him a 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4 victory Wednesday night over a man that was once the No. 3 player in the world.  

According to data compiled for the ATP Tour over the 2018-2019 seasons, Raonic was the Tour’s most proficient server, winning 86.15% of his first serves when winning a match.

But it just goes to show that aces aren’t always the winning hand. Not only was Kwon not intimidated by Raonic’s hammer, he served decently himself and dug deep when he had to in order to advance to the third round at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.

“It didn’t matter if he serve 30 or 40 aces,” Kwon said through his coach, Kyu Tae Im, acting as interpreter. “We plan on making first serve and making him move a lot and make him tired and maybe he lose first serve. Then second serve we try to attack.”

Neither player faced a break point in the first set. Then Kwon’s forcing forehand and Raonic’s forehand error gave Kwon a 6-4 lead in the tiebreak and another Raonic forehand error gave Kwon the first set.

Kwon faced adversity for the first time in the second set, fighting off love-40 twice to win the ninth and 11th games, but Raonic managed to tough out the tiebreak despite not serving a single ace in it.

Raonic faced only two break points on the night, but the second one proved his undoing. Kwon broke through in the third game of the third set to take a 2-1 lead. Raonic had a break point in the next game after Kwon made an error on an easy forehand. But Raonic sent a forehand wide and then couldn’t handle Kwon’s next two serves. His opportunity gone, Raonic couldn’t create another one and Kwon served out the match, which lasted a grueling 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Raonic has been afflicted with injuries over the years that have stunted his career and prevented him from getting past his career high world ranking of No. 3 in 2016 . In 2019 he pulled out of eight tournaments with a variety of injuries and was plagued by a bad back all season. The last of his eight tournament titles was in 2016.

But now he’ll have to regroup for the next tournament, and continue a comeback.

“I thought he played really well,” Raonic said. “It was my first match and it was his second so he had a sense on the courts. The courts are quite slow with not much bounce and that seemed to suit him.”

 Notes and quotes:

Yet another Serbian player is moving up the tennis ladder. Miomir Kecmanovic, the 54th-ranked player in the world and one of five Serbians in the top 54, defeated Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3 in a second-round match.  The 20-year-old, based in the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida since he was 13, has a ways to go to catch to the top Serb, all-time great Novak Djokovic, the current No. 1 player in the world and Kecmanovic’s inspiration. “We keep in touch and he checks on how I am doing,” Kecmanovic said. “It’s really nice to have someone like that to talk to.” . . . American Steve Johnson served for the first set against Andreas Seppi. But he was broken and went on to lose, 7-6 (4), 6-3 . . . First-round matches are sparsely attended here, but a STEM education program outing of Long Island students, more than 700, provided refreshing life to the early matches on Tuesday morning. It’s part of the tournament’s community outreach program.

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