LONDON--Now that's a debut.
Refusing to be unsettled by a last minute change in opponent, Canada's Milos Raonic roared to victory in his first-ever match at Wimbledon today, crushing Marc Gicquel of France by a convincing 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3 score in an economical one hour and 36 minutes.
Living up to his reputation as the most explosive server on the ATP tour, the 20-year-old from Thornhill hammered 25 aces past Gicquel and won 86 per cent of his first serve points. Raonic delivered a very clean performance, hitting 41 winners in all compared to just 13 unforced errors against the overmatched, 34-year-old Gicquel.
Raonic was supposed to play Italy's Fabio Fognini, but Fognini withdrew 45 minutes before the match, citing a left thigh injury he picked up earlier in the month at the French Open.
Rather than be thrown by the change, Raonic pounded three aces past Gicquel on the first three points of the match.
"I was happy how I dealt with it because that was the first time that ever happened to me," said Raonic afterwards.
Gicquel said he was pleased to get the chance to fill in.
"I knew Raonic, I had seen him on television," said the 34-year-old tour veteran. "But I cannot read his serve. The next time. . .I don't know what I can do."
He did face a break point for the second set, but fought that off and then captured that set in a tiebreak.
"I was fortunate to get my serve in," said Raonic, who was dominant on serve, winning 70 of 87 points.
With many anticipating a collision between the big-serving Canadian and world No. 1 Rafa Nadal in the third round, Raonic's next match is against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who beat German veteran Tommy Haas today in four sets. Muller, 28, is a 6-foot-4 lefthander with a big serve, and he outdid Raonic, acing Haas 37 times.
Muller and Raonic have never played before.
"I think I have the level of game to do well at the bigger tournaments," said Raonic.