Aug 7 (Reuters) - Milos Raonic showed that the mighty serve that lifted him to tennis' upper echelons is still firing after a two-year injury layoff as the Canadian downed Frances Tiafoe 6-7(12) 7-6(4) 6-3 in the first round of his home tournament on Monday.
Raonic, a former world number three who returned to the tour in June, crushed his 37th ace on match point in front of an adoring crowd and set up a second-round meeting with Japan's Toro Daniel.
"Two years away, five years from playing in Toronto, a whole four years since I got to play in front of my parents, who were there for the majority of my matches as junior and a majority of my matches as a pro," Raonic said. "All of these things came together for a great night for me and I'm incredibly grateful for it."
The marathon first set tiebreak ended in controversy when Tiafoe charged forward to hit a winner but touched the net.
Because the American made contact with the net outside of the single sticks it was not a violation, and Tiafoe was awarded the point and the set over objections from Raonic and boos from the crowd.
Raonic got revenge on his ninth-seeded opponent in the second set breaker, pumping his fist after firing an unreturnable serve to level the match at a set apiece.
The 32-year-old then broke early in the third and fended off a break point in the match's final game in securing the emotional victory, which marked his first appearance on home soil since 2019.
Frenchman Gael Monfils put on an impressive display of speed and skill to beat American Christopher Eubanks 7-6(3) 6-7(4) 6-1 and advance to the second round of the Canadian Open earlier in the day.
After capturing the first set, Monfils had match points while leading 6-5 in the second but Eubanks, who caught the attention of the tennis world when he made a run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, was able to serve his way out of trouble to set up another tiebreak.
Eubanks battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the second set breaker and leveled the match with a perfectly executed serve and volley in the first meeting between the pair of popular players.
But Monfils broke Eubanks in the first game to jump out to an early lead he would not relinquish in the deciding set.
The point of the match came when the 36-year-old Monfils, who missed time this year with a wrist injury, raced down balls before pushing a passing shot past Eubanks for a 4-1 lead as fans leapt out of the seats and Monfils let out a triumphant roar.
Next up for Monfils is a second-round meeting with fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who recently changed coaches from his father, Apostolos Tsitsipas, to Mark Philippoussis.
American Tommy Paul, Pole Hubert Hurkacz, Italians Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti and Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina were among the other players who advanced out of the round of 64 on the first day of the Masters 1000 tournament.
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