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Canada's Milos Raonic ready to go deep at Rogers Cup men's tournament

08/05/2012 02:42 EDT | Updated 10/05/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - If rising Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic hopes to go deep into the Rogers Cup men's tournament, he'll likely have to get by an Olympic champion.

Raonic's third-round collision course with Andy Murray stayed on track Sunday when tournament director Karl Hale confirmed the Briton's status for Toronto, just hours after Murray won tennis gold at the London Games.

Murray, who defeated Roger Federer in straight sets in the final, is the tournament's No. 2 seed and receives a bye to the second round, where he will open against a qualifier.

Raonic is the No. 16-seed — the first seeded Canadian at the Rogers Cup since Andrew Sznajder in 1989 — and also has a first-round bye. He will meet either Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia and Viktor Troicki of Serbia in his opener Tuesday night on centre court at Rexall Centre.

"It's a very good draw for Milos," said Hale. "I'm sure Andy will be a little bit tired coming into the tournament. If you're asking for a draw against a top player, that'll probably be your best choice."

Raonic will also have home court advantage in the tournament. The hard-serving 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., says crowd support can give him an edge but it's not something he relies on to win.

"Obviously there's tough moments throughout the match and you hear people support you, it helps," said Raonic. "But for most of the match you tune everything out and focus on what you need to do.

"You try to mute everything out and stay within yourself. (The fans) can help me through moments in the match, but at the end of the day, I have to just do what I've been doing so far this year."

Ranked No. 23 in the world, Raonic has two victories on the ATP Tour this year — the Chennai Open in India and the SAP Open in San Jose, where he repeated as champion.

He's coming off a marathon defeat at the London Games to fifth-ranked Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is seated third at the Rogers Cup.

Raonic lost to Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in a match that took three hours 57 minutes. The third set alone lasted an even three hours.

"At the end of the day, there's a lot of things I wish I would have done better, but I felt like I played well," said Raonic. "(That match) was motivating me coming in here, giving me more confidence and feeling like I'm playing much better and I can do really well here."

Raonic missed last year's tournament in Montreal because of a hip injury and has never advanced beyond the first round in singles in two tries.

If there is a psychological edge going into the tournament, it's that he knocked out Murray in a quarter-final this year in Barcelona. Raonic also won't have to worry about coming up against a familiar foe in Federer.

The world's No. 1-ranked player, who stymied Raonic this year in Indian Wells, Madrid and Halle, pulled out of the tournament on Friday, a day after world No. 3 Rafael Nadal withdrew. Federer cited the scheduling crunch while Nadal said he needs more time to recover from injury.

However, having two of the top four players in the world out of the tournament isn't giving Raonic any peace of mind.

"It's more a disappointment," said Raonic. "The way I want to compete, the things I want to achieve, is to be able to play against those guys and win against those guys. And with those opportunities missing, and especially here where I feel like I play well and somewhere I've grown up, is a little bit disappointing."

With Federer and Nadal out, Hale calmed fears Sunday that Murray, who has Rogers Cup titles from 2009 and 2010, and defending champion Novak Djokovic might do the same.

Djokovic is the tournament's top seed and is coming off a loss in the Olympic bronze medal match to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina on Sunday. Hale says there's been no change in Djokovic's status ahead of his second-round opener against either Australia's Bernard Tomic or a qualifier.

He added that having the Summer Games so close to the Rogers Cup on the calendar hasn't created as much scheduling havoc as some might think.

"We've worked with the ATP to help the scheduling a little bit, specifically the nine through 16 seeds who have byes in the first round, which is the first time in a Masters series history that they've done that," said Hale. "So that's helped a lot of the players. So far it's been OK, with the indication that Murray and Djokovic and del Potro all coming tomorrow and Tuesday, it's worked out well."

In early qualifying Sunday, Italy's Fabio Fognini advanced to the main draw with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Bobby Reynolds and Michael Berrer defeated Croatia's Ivan Dodig 6-3, 6-4.

Notes: Michael Chang will replace Andre Agassi for the Rogers Cup "Legends Night" in Montreal. Agassi was forced to pull out because of a back injury. Chang will take on Jim Courier on Monday night at Uniprix Stadium in the men's singles. He will also join Martina Hingis, Courier and Martina Navratilova in a mixed doubles match. The women's tournament is being played in Montreal this year.

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