Milos Raonic has been ranked outside the top-10 for almost two years now, barely staying in the top-40 before recovering the position on the list and settling into the best 20 players of the world despite ongoing setbacks.
A knee injury had sidelined a former Wimbledon finalist from the entire clay swing after an early loss in Miami, making a return in Stuttgart where he lost to Roger Federer in the final a year ago. Seeded 6th, Raonic had to dig deep to overcome the first two rivals, prevailing against Alexei Popyrin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the deciding tie break for the fourth quarter-final of the season.
In the longest match of the Wednesday's program at Mercedes Cup, Milos toppled Tsonga 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 in two hours and 27 minutes for the fifth win over the Frenchman in seven matches. Playing against each other on grass for the first time since the 2012 Olympics in London when Milos prevailed 25-23 in the epic third set, they pushed each other to the limits all the time, with Tsonga winning two points more in the end, not the most important ones, though.
The Canadian erased all four break points he played against and secured one break from three chances overall, surviving a break point at 4-4 in the decider before sailing through the tie break to move into the next round despite a treatment on his back in the first set.
Milos had some back problems in the first set, calling for physio to come out and help him, although it seems to be nothing serious as he wants to focus on the next match and get as many triumphs as possible in the upcoming weeks to regain the form and get back at his best ahead of Wimbledon.
"The match was very close, I was very lucky to get away with the win today. Jo had more opportunities and he is always tough to play against, the last time we played on grass was at the 2012 Olympics I think it was 25-23 in the third set, I knew it would not be easy and I'm happy that I won.
Luckily, the serve was there to save me a couple of times and help me out, I'm just going to keep fighting and hoping I can win as many games, sets and matches as possible. I'm working my way through and trying to enjoy the win without thinking about injuries."