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Canada’s Raonic wins Grand Slam return, beats Novak in Wimbledon opener

Hard-serving Canadian fired 28 aces in his first match at a major since 2021 Australian Open
Canada’s Milos Raonic serves to Austria’s Dennis Novak during the men’s singles match on day three of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Alastair Grant

Milos Raonic made a successful return to Grand Slam tennis on Wednesday with a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Austria’s Dennis Novak in first-round action at Wimbledon.

The hard-serving Canadian fired 28 aces in his first match at a tennis major since losing to Novak Djokovic in the round of 16 of the 2021 Australian Open.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., the men’s 26th seed, also advanced to the second round with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over Moldova’s Radu Albot, completing a match that had been suspended in the second set in Monday.

Raonic overcame a pair of rain delays and wore down the Austrian qualifier before clinching the match in two hours 38 minutes with a dominant fourth set.

The 32-year-old won the match’s last five games and moved on after delivering an ace on his second match point chance.

Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., returned to action last month after missing almost two years with a variety of injuries.

The former world No. 3 and 2016 Wimbledon finalist entered this year’s grass-court Grand Slam with an ATP Tour ranking of 849th.

Raonic will next face American 16th seed Tommy Paul. Raonic won the only other meeting between the two at a 2021 hardcourt event in Acapulco, Mexico.

Wednesday was busy for Canadians after rain played havoc with the schedule at All England Club, suspending or postponing a host of matches early this week.

Shapovalov’s match with Albot resumed after being suspended due to darkness with the Canadian trailing 5-7, 2-2.

Shapovalov was heard complaining to the chair umpire on Monday, accusing the Moldovan of quickly changing his return position as a distraction tactic.

After a day to cool off, Shapovalov was all business in winning the next three sets. He won the match with his seventh break on 16 chances when Albot double-faulted while facing match point.

Shapovalov will next face France’s Gregoire Barrere, who is ranked 49th on the ATP Tour.

In women’s action, qualifier Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill was defeated in her Grand Slam main draw debut, falling 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch.

Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., and Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino were scheduled to play first-round matches Wednesday.

Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., is set to take on fifth seed Caroline Garcia of France in women’s second-round action on Thursday.

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