Milos Raonic is having the best professional week of his life.
The Canadian teenager will face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the second round after beating Frenchman Florent Serra 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 at the Japan Open Tuesday.
Raonic, who qualified for Tokyo after defeating No. 6 seed Thiago Alves and No. 2 Marsel Ilhan this past weekend, highlighted his serve as one of the major reasons why he won the match against the French player.
“Serve is a big point of my game,” said Raonic to The Canadian Press. “But the best thing was that I was able to back up what I did last week. I didn’t have a letdown.”
The Thornhill native served 22 aces with six double faults in a game that lasted one hour and 45 minutes.
He also impressively saved six of the seven break points he faced while breaking Serra twice.
Raonic has significantly improved his play in the past weeks, qualifying for his first career ATP Tour events, including the U.S. Open and the Malaysian Open.
In Kuala Lumpur, the world No. 200 made it to the quarter-finals where he was defeated by Russian Igor Andreev.
But despite the loss, and now being totally focused in Tokyo, the 19-year-old recognized the improvement in his game.
“I’ve played well now for two weeks and I hope to continue like this. Today was a tough match but I was able to play well.”
This is the first time the Canadian player will face Nadal in singles on Thursday, although it will represent the second time they’ve played on the same court after he and partner Vasek Pospisil beat the Spanish star and Novak Djokovic in doubles at the Rogers Cup.
“It’s not exactly the same thing at all, but it was good experience for me,” said Raonic. “To play the world No. 1 on a world stage here is something big, for my tennis and for tennis in Canada.
“At least this is not his home surface like clay, I expect that I will really have to fight. This could be a window for me to really lift my game and get some more experience.”
On the other side of the court, Nadal has not lost a second-round match since he went down to fellow countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in Rome in 2008.
Nadal, who recently won the U.S. Open and completed the elusive career grand slam, got past Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo with a 6-4, 6-4 win on Tuesday.