In tennis, after a tough defeat, there is almost always next week.
So in the wake of Canadian Milos Raonic's first-round loss to Viktor Troicki at the China Open in Beijing, he got an immediate chance to stop a potential rough patch in its tracks as he faced Brazilian lefty Thomaz Bellucci in the first round of the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai Tuesday.
After a shaky start – Raonic was broken in his first service game, and lost eight of the first nine points in the match – he prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) and will meet Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the second round.
A few courts down the pecking order, with the matches beginning just seconds apart, Raonic's countryman Vasek Pospisil had an easier time of it as he dispatched qualifier Simone Bolelli of Italy (a talented if inconsistent shotmaker) 6-3, 6-4 to advance to a second-round date with No. 11 seed Richard Gasquet of France.
Raonic normally comes out with his biggest velocity on serve in the first games of matches, and the final games. That didn't happen this time, as he faced the lefty Bellucci for the first time. Rather than opening with a blast, the Canadian opted to try to stay away from Bellucci's forehand and directed just about every serve to his backhand. Those aren't his best serves, necessarily, and he failed to get all but one first delivery in the court. He was quickly broken; worse, he failed to win a single point during Bellucci's first three service games.
But the Brazilian, who appears talented enough to do much better than he does away from his preferred clay, has never beaten a top-10 player on a hard court. And Raonic quickly realized that while Bellucci's forehand is heavy and fearsome, he also makes a lot of inexplicable errors with it.
Raonic broke back in Bellucci's fourth service game to even the match at 4-4, and he played solidly in the tiebreakers while rarely facing any additional challenges on his own serve. He was definitely jumpy in the early going, though, barking in Serbian/Croatian at his support team on numerous occasions.
The Canadian went with his strengths the rest of the way rather than staying away from Bellucci's strengths, and it proved to be the right recipe. Notably, he hit his backhand consistently and solidly, an improvement in his game that has been noticeable in recent months even if the overall results haven't been up to his usual standards after an injury-marred middle of the season.
Pospisil, who won the doubles title with American partner Jack Sock in Beijing Sunday, had a quick turnaround to Shanghai, reportedly a slower surface with a different ball bounce (ask Roger Federer about that; he was shocked by Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his first match Tuesday). With two matches scheduled Tuesday, Pospisil and Sock couldn't get through an intriguing first-round doubles contest against resident Australian bad boys Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.
The Aussies won, 7-6 (3), 7-5, out-acing the Can-American duo nine to three overall. Sock and Pospisil each posted 10 aces in their straight-sets victories in singles.
The singles victory keeps Raonic's hopes to make the final eight in London next month alive although if he gets through Bautista-Agut, he could face a far more significant Spanish opponent in Rafael Nadal in the third round.
The early loss in doubles puts a serious damper on any hopes Pospisil and Sock might have entertained to make the doubles final eight; there are 1,000 ranking points on offer for the winner in Shanghai, and their main rivals for that London spot all still have a chance at them.
Across the planet in Fairfield, California, their Davis Cup teammate Frank Dancevic, back in action after a week's break in the wake of four straight weeks of playing low-level Futures events, faced an early test of his newly-found confidence as he met former collegiate star Marcos Giron in the first round of a $50,000 Challenger event on Monday.
Dancevic displayed some serious nerves against his lower-ranked rival – especially when he was ahead. But in the end, he squeaked out a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) win despite a first-serve percentage barely over 50 per cent. Dancevic saved 8-of-11 break points against him, and managed to play some solid tennis in the two tiebreakers after dropping the first set.
(Click here for all the updated Canadian tennis scores from around the world this week).