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Happy Canada Day for Milos Raonic, advancing to Wimbledon quarters

Eighth-seeded Raonic became the first from his country in 100 years to advance to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon by beating Japan's Kei Nishikori on Tuesday.
Milos Raonic returns a shot against Kei Nishikori on Tuesday in their Wimbledon fourth-round match at the All England Club in London, England. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images / July 1, 2014
Milos Raonic returns a shot against Kei Nishikori on Tuesday in their Wimbledon fourth-round match at the All England Club in London, England. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images / July 1, 2014

Milos Raonic made it a golden Canada Day at Wimbledon on Tuesday, becoming the first man from his country in more than a century to reach the quarter-finals.

Raonic, the eighth seed, beat Japan’s 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 in the fourth round to set up a clash with Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Nick Kyrgios on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals.

The 19-year-old Australian wildcard, ranked 144 in the world, produced one of the greatest shocks at the All England Club in knocking out world No 1 Nadal on Tuesday.

Raonic became just the third Canadian player in history to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals, after Eugenie Bouchard booked her place in the women’s last eight.

The only other to do so, and the last man, was Robert Powell, who reached the quarter-finals in 1908, 1910 and 1912.

On Wednesday, Bouchard plays Angelique Kerber, who knocked out 2004 champion Maria Sharapova.

There were plenty of Canadian supporters on the 2,000-seater Court Three backing Raonic, some wearing maple leaf ice hockey tops, others carrying flags and some waving bunting.

The clash between 23-year-old Raonic and Nishikori, 24, was an encounter between two of the brightest prospects in the world top-15.

Raonic is on his career-high ranking of nine, while the Japanese is at 12, three places off his highest position.

The match saw Raonic fire 35 aces in his victory, and his fastest legitimate serve clocked in at 141 miles (227 kilometres) per hour.

He also hit 66 winners was much more effective when volleying, winning 26 points to Nishikori’s nine at the net.

Powell, the only other Canadian man to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals, lived a remarkable life far removed from that of today’s tennis professionals. He was killed age 36 serving in World War I.

Born in 1881, Powell was the private secretary to the lieutenant-governor of his native British Columbia, and arranged the visit of the prince and princess of Wales to the province in 1901.

He learnt tennis on his father’s courts and reached the 1908 Wimbledon semi-finals. He captained the Canadian tennis team at the London Olympics that year.

Powell enlisted in the 48th Canadian infantry battalion, reaching the rank of lieutenant, and was killed in action in France during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

Raonic said his sights were set not just on going further at Wimbledon than Powell but on broader goals.

“It’s ambitions that are beyond doing what no Canadian has done before. It’s about really trying to become the best player in the world,” he said.

Born in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, his parents emigrated from the former Yugoslavia to Canada when he was three years old. He paid tribute to the chances Canada gave his family.

“We had the opportunity to go from living in a tiny apartment with my grandmother there to help take care of mostly me and help with my brother and sister, to having a comfortable middle-class life in a nice suburb of Toronto,” he said.

“Canada is a big part of that. Canada gave my parents the possibility to give us that possibility.

“I don’t think there is that kind of personal freedom in many places around the world that you can find there, as long as you work for it.”

Raonic said keeping up his booming serve would be the key to beating Kyrgios.

“I’ve been able to do that so far. It’s what’s going to put the pressure on my opponent. It’s what’s going to give me a bit of freedom on the return games,” he said.

“After that, the most important thing is going to be the attitude, the mental approach.

“I feel like I’m ready.”

Besides young Kyrgios and Raonic, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka also booked his place in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, overcoming Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in a contest that was tight early on for a straight-sets, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory. Roger Federer, too, faced little trouble from a Spaniard, beating 23rd-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to set up the top-bill quarter-final pairing with his Swiss Davis Cup teammate Wawrinka.

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Updated: July 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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