Canadian Milos Raonic began his French Open run-up with a convincing 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Julien Benneteau on Monday to reach the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters.
Raonic’s first clay-court win this season took just 72 minutes and came a week after his heroics in Canada’s Davis Cup victory over Italy. The French Open, the only tennis Grand Slam played on clay, is slated to begin next month at Roland Garros.
“I did a lot of things well, especially only having a limited amount of preparation before here,” Raonic said. “Davis Cup was a very good thing, but it was also very draining. It took a lot of energy to get through that weekend.
“So I was very happy with how I was able to prepare and play today. I came here feeling really good, especially playing as well as I did in Davis Cup.”
Raonic, a native of Thornhill, Ont., served 15 aces and broke his French opponent three times to set up a match against Jarkko Nieminen, who thrashed Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-2.
Roberto Bautista Agut also upset Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-6 (6).
Raonic’s victory pushed his career record to 3-2 at the iconic Country Club venue and restored pride after his first-round loss a year ago to Spain’s Albert Montanes.
“I played well today,” said the 12th-seeded Canadian. “I’ve had four days of clay training and feel my game is off to a good start.
“It’s a long clay season, my next goal is to win my next match.”
Raonic lost to Nieminen in their only previous match at Bangkok last fall.
“I did a lot of things poorly in that situation,” Raonic said. “But I feel like if I play and I keep going for it like I was today, I was able to dictate play a bit.
“If I can get ahead in the points, I can keep that advantage to me and I think I’m pretty good in that position.”