WIMBLEDON, United Kingdom - It didn't take long for Canada's Milos Raonic to show his opponent what to expect in their first-round men's singles match at the London Games.
Raonic opened the match by firing an ace that hit the back fence in a heartbeat and left Tatsuma Ito completely flat-footed. The Japanese player never found an answer for the Canadian's booming serve, with Raonic posting a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory at the All England Club.
"I'm fortunate enough to play with a big enough game that most of my results are going to depend on me," Raonic said. "I feel like if I step it up, I will have an opportunity to win."
Raonic used smooth ground strokes and mixed in some deft cut shots to prevent Ito from finding his rhythm. The Canadian picked up an early break for a 3-1 lead and was never threatened the rest of the way.
"It was a perfect match to get into the tournament," said Canadian coach Martin Laurendeau. "He could work on his game and his patterns and make sure everything is nice and clean and he was able to do that convincingly."
Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., also posted a straight-set victory in her opening women's singles match. She defeated Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-2, 6-1.
"It's my first Olympics and it's so different than any Grand Slam or any WTA tournament," Wozniak said. "Tennis is such an individual sport, but (here) it's like you play for your own country. So the first victory for sure, it's for Canada."
Toronto's Daniel Nestor and Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil won their opening men's doubles match later Monday. They beat Horia Tecau and Adrian Ungur of Romania 6-3, 7-6 (9).
"I'm playing with one of the best doubles players in the world," Pospisil said. "We get fired up and we play some of our best tennis."
The draw gets a lot tougher now for Raonic, who at No. 25 is 44 positions higher that Ito in the world rankings. A second-round match against world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France is on tap for Tuesday.
"Really my job is just going to be go out there, take care of my serve and try to create opportunities," Raonic said. "But I'm going to have to go out there going for the win. He's not going to give it to me."
Tsonga was pushed hard in his opening match on Sunday, a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 win over Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.
"He's got to compete really hard," Laurendeau said of Raonic's chances. "Tsonga is a warrior, yesterday he was close to losing and he hung in. He's a fighter. He's one of those guys — there's a reason why he's that highly ranked.
"I think it's a great matchup."
There was plenty of colour on display at the storied club, which has relaxed its traditional all-white dress code for the Games. Players are wearing bright national colours and large purple Olympic banners are on display at every turn.
Raonic, who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011, has had little success here. He injured his hip during a second-round match last year at Wimbledon and also made a second-round exit last month.
The 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., wasn't satisfied with his movement during parts of the 68-minute match. He noted that he's only played about 10 career matches on grass and is still trying to get comfortable on the surface.
"It's like everything, when it's new to you it still takes time — a learning period," Raonic said. "That's pretty much what I'm going through right now."
There were only three rows of seating on Court 16 but most of the fans on hand were cheering for Raonic, who has won two tournaments this season. However, he's a longshot to reach the Olympic podium since the 64-man draw is so deep.
Tsonga and Raonic were set to meet in Davis Cup play last February but the Canadian had to pull out with a knee injury. He was replaced by Frank Dancevic, who lost the deciding match in straight sets.
"I think it's going to be a good match," Raonic said. "It was unfortunate and I was sort of bummed out not to have a chance to play him earlier in the year. But right now I don't think there's a bigger stage for us as far as national pride goes.
"So for me to have this opportunity again, I think it's a big one."
Raonic spent the first few nights at the athletes' village but is now staying at a residence near the All England Club. He's still getting into the Olympic spirit.
"Great feeling getting the win today. There is nothing like Canada pride at the Olympics! #GoTeamCanada #London2012 #Olympics," he said on his Twitter account.
He has also been keeping a close eye on the performances of his Canadian teammates.
"We've been pretty glued on the TV," he said. "Maybe that's not the best thing for my eyesight but it's a great two weeks to be a part of."
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