ATP Stuttgart: Raonic, Struff and Pouille advance into quarters


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ATP Stuttgart: Raonic, Struff and Pouille advance into quarters

Struggling with various injuries, Milos Raonic has been ranked outside the top-10 for almost two years now, barely staying in the top-40 at some point before recovering the position on the list and settling into the best 20 players of the world.

A knee injury had sidelined Milos from the entire clay swing after an early loss in Miami and he is back in action in Stuttgart where he lost to Roger Federer in the final a year ago. Seeded 6th, Raonic had to work hard to pass the opening two obstacles, 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, Milos overpowered Tsonga 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 in two hours and 27 minutes for the fifth win over the Frenchman in seven matches. Competing on grass for the first time since the 2012 Olympics in London when Milos prevailed 25-23 in the third set, they pushed each other to the limits all the time, with Tsonga winning two points more in the end, not enough to cross the finish line first.

The Canadian fended off all four break points and secured one break from three chances overall, repelling the crucial 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.

Six of seven break points came in the opening two service games and Milos drew first blood in the very first game when he broke with an easy volley winner, fending off three break points in the next game to cement the lead and open a 2-0 advantage.

Both players served well in the rest of the set and Milos grabbed it 6-4, blasting four winners in that tenth game to move closer to the finish line. There were no break chances in set number two to set up a tie break that was decided by a forehand error from Raonic at 4-5, allowing Jo-Wilfried to wrap up the set with an ace in the 12th point and send the encounter into a decider.

Carried by this momentum, Tsonga served better throughout the third set, creating the break point with a backhand winner at 4-4 that could have sent him over the top. Milosa saved it with a volley winner and was the better player in the tie break, delivering four mini-breaks and clinching the victory with a service winner at 6-1 for the quarter-final clash against Marton Fucsovics.

In their fourth clash of the season, the Hungarian took down the 4th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes for the third win over his familiar rival this year, saving three match points on serve at 4-5 in the final set.

Both players struggled to find the first serve and Basilashvili was the one who suffered more behind his initial shot, hitting 13 double faults and playing against 17 break points. Marton seized five of those and repelled five out of seven break chances offered to Nikoloz, building his way back into the match in set number two and overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the final set.

Basilashvili had a colossal chance to seal the deal on the return in game ten, wasting three match points and getting broken in the next game before Marton stole the victory with a hold at 15 for a 7-5 and the place in the quarters.

Jan-Lennard Struff notched the 20th win of the season, toppling the young Serb Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-2 in 58 minutes, firing 15 aces and saving both break points he faced to mount the pressure on Miomir who couldn't endure it.

Struff converted four out of eight break points, two in each set that pushed him over the finish line and into the third quarter-final in 2019. A former champion Lucas Pouille took down the struggling 3rd seed Daniil Medvedev 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and one minute, taking five points more than the Russian who had a set point in the first set at 6-5 in the tie break.

Lucas won the next three points to grab the set and the battle was right on in the second, alongside tantrums and scenes from Medvedev who won it 6-4 before fading from the court in the decider, sending Lucas into the first quarters since Melbourne.