Milos Raonic continues his early-season roll with an emphatic first-round victory at the Australian Open

Canada's Milos Raonic stretches to hit a shot during his first round match against France's Lucas Pouille at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

MELBOURNE, Australia – We've seen the storyline play out often, where a player appears to be in peak early-season form in the tournaments leading up to a Grand Slam, only to arrive at the big dance and not look like nearly the same player.

But in the case of Canadian Milos Raonic, the tennis he displayed in winning the Brisbane event 10 days ago was exactly what he showed in as routine a first-round match as there probably can be, a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over talented young Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

Raonic beat Pouille 6-4, 6-4 on his way to the Brisbane title; on Tuesday, he stepped it up. The score doesn't appear devastating, but the hammer struck every blow: 39 errors to just 20 unforced, 12 aces, 22-for-30 at the net and – a noteworthy stat for Raonic, 4-for-6 on break point opportunities.

"I think I'm playing well. I think I'm finally healthy, finally allowing the tennis that I have been able to put some time into to sort of speak for itself. I'm adding a few things," he said. "You know, I'm more efficient at the net. I find my way forward and I cover the net better. I'm able to make my opponents think a bit more and be a little bit more calm in situations of pressure, believing that I can take and I can use different things to get ahead."

Here's what it looked like.

The Canadian broke his opponent the first time he served in each set, and he took it from there.

"Playing ahead is always a little bit easier. The main thing you have to be on top of yourself for at that point is not have any letups," he said. "I think I stayed ahead pretty much on my service games. Other than maybe a love-15 once, I think I was ahead the whole time. I don't think it got to deuce ever. I was putting myself in good spots."

Raonic had an 11 a.m. start, before the worst of the heat, and wrapped his match up in about 90 minutes.

His second-round opponent had the opposite experience.

Tommy Robredo, looking all of his 33 years and then some by the end, managed to get past Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 8-6 in the fifth set, in a match that ended nearly six hours after Raonic's effort, all of it in the heat of the day.

The 33-year-old needed nearly five hours to defeat Malek Jaziri in the first round of the Australian Open. (Stephanie Myles/
The 33-year-old needed nearly five hours to defeat Malek Jaziri in the first round of the Australian Open. (Stephanie Myles/

Robredo's victory took four hours and 47 minutes; the final set alone lasted just minutes less than Raonic's entire match.

The veteran Spaniard will be up against it as it is; Raonic leads their head-to-head 5-0, and the two meetings on hard courts were convincing victories by the Canadian.

"Tommy I have played many times. Difficult match, as always. But I feel like I'm playing well. However that challenge presents itself, I think I can find some solutions," Raonic said.

Now, about the ... mouth guard.

It's not a great look. But it's a look.(REUTERS/Brandon Malone)
It's not a great look. But it's a look.(REUTERS/Brandon Malone)

It's a new addition to Raonic's on-court armour – nothing on the level of the sleeve and the new bandanna but still, rather noticeable.

It tends to pop out right after Raonic makes an unforced error which, in the end, kind of makes the piece of plastic a window to Raonic's tennis soul, if we want to get poetic about it. It certainly doesn't make for poetic looking photos.

Raonic said his chiropractor recommended it; he joked that it might help his back.

"Just to not grind my teeth while I play. It just causes stress and headaches sometimes," he said. "I wear it all the time other than when I'm eating, so I got used to it pretty quickly. Maybe I fiddle it with it too much while I play, but other than that it's pretty much there all the time."