Canada drops 2-0 de­ci­sion to Aus­tralia at women’s soft­ball cham­pi­onship

Raonic be­gins Rogers Cup as sec­ond-ranked Cana­dian be­hind new­comer Shapo­valov

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY MELISSA COUTO

Mi­los Raonic is head­ing into this year’s Rogers Cup in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion than the one he’s be­come ac­cus­tomed to over the last few years.

Sup­planted by teenager De­nis Shapo­valov as the top-ranked Cana­dian in the men’s sin­gles draw, there’s sud­denly a lot less out­side pres­sure on the Thorn­hill, Ont., prod­uct to suc­ceed in the lone ATP Mas­ters event on home soil.

But Raonic, who ranked as high as No. 3 in the world two years ago, said he never felt ex­pected to carry Cana­dian ten­nis on his shoul­ders any­way.

“It’s fun to have other guys do­ing well but it’s never been a bur­den, it’s never been any­thing,” Raonic said Sun­day. “It’s just been me do­ing the best I can in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion that’s ahead of me.

“It’s def­i­nitely a lot of fun to have (Shapo­valov and fel­low up-and-comer Felix AugerAlias­sime) around do­ing well, to see them com­ing up and com­ing up quickly. But I don’t think it’s made any sense of a di­rect im­pact in any way of mak­ing some­thing eas­ier.”

Raonic, now ranked 30th on the ATP stand­ings, be­gins his Rogers Cup tour­na­ment Mon­day night against 10th-seeded David Gof­fin of Bel­gium.

The 19-year-old Shapo­valov (No. 26) starts Tues­day night against France’s Jeremy Chardy while wild card Mon­trealer Auger-Alias­sime (No. 134), who’ll turn 18 this week, takes on Lu­cas Pouille of France in his Rogers Cup main draw de­but.

Raonic last played Gof­fin in Madrid in 2017, los­ing in straight sets in the third round. But he also had one of his best matches of his ca­reer against Gof­fin, ral­ly­ing from two sets down to beat him in the Round of 16 at Wim­ble­don in 2016.

It’s been an up-and-down road for Roanic since then, with a rash of in­juries - in­clud­ing a quad tear at Wim­ble­don last month - send­ing him tum­bling down the world rank­ings.

He hasn’t com­peted since Wim­ble­don but said Sun­day he’s felt great over two weeks of prac­tis­ing in Toronto.

“I guess one of the things I’ve had the lux­ury of is be­ing hurt quite a few times so I have that ex­pe­ri­ence,” Raonic said, draw­ing a few laughs from re­porters. “I know how to re­set.”

Shapo­valov has only faced Chardy once, beat­ing him in the first round at Wim­ble­don this sea­son. But he called that vic­tory a con­fi­dence booster head­ing into Tues­day’s match.

The crowd should help ease any nerves, too.

“I al­ways tend to bring out a good game at home when I’m play­ing ei­ther in Mon­treal or Toronto,” Shapo­valov said. “So I’m fairly con­fi­dent with my game right now.”

This will be Shapo­valov’s sec­ond time in the main draw at a Rogers Cup in Toronto (he made it to the sec­ond round of the 2016 tour­na­ment), but first since his break­out sea­son last year that saw him sky­rocket up the stand­ings af­ter a semi­fi­nal loss to even­tual cham­pion Alex Zverev of Ger­many in the Mon­treal event.

Kaleigh Rafter had a pair of hits in Canada’s 2-0 loss to Aus­tralia on Sun­day at the women’s soft­ball world cham­pi­onship, a qual­i­fier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It was the Cana­di­ans’ first loss of the tour­na­ment, drop­ping them into a three-way tie with Aus­tralia and China for sec­ond in Group B at 3-1. Ja­pan sits first with a per­fect 4-0 record.

Aus­tralia’s Sa­man­tha Poole and Clare Warwick reached on back-to-back sin­gles against Canada’s Karissa Hovinga. Poole slid safely into home when Tay­lah Tsit­sikro­nis grounded out in the sec­ond in­ning.

Leigh Godfrey led off the bot­tom of the sixth with a base hit against Cana­dian re­liever Eu­jenna Caira and Chelsea Forkin reached on a de­fen­sive er­ror. Aus­tralia failed to ad­vance the run­ners with a bunt but, with two outs, Warwick ex­tended the lead with an RBI sin­gle to right

Rafter led off the sev­enth with a base hit for Canada. Aus­tralia gave the ball to re­liever Jus­tine Smethurst, who got started walk­ing pinch hit­ter Holly Speers. Vic­to­ria Hay­ward’s bunt at­tempt was well fielded by Stacey Anne Porter, who got the force out at third. With two outs and the po­ten­tial ty­ing runs in scor­ing po­si­tion, the game ended on a fly to right field by Jen­nifer Salling.

In Group A, Mon­ica Ab­bott threw a no-hit­ter over four in­nings and struck out 10 bat­ters as the United States over­pow­ered the Nether­lands 11-0.

Ab­bott is­sued only one walk while earn­ing her sec­ond win of the tour­na­ment.

The win­ner of the tour­na­ment will be awarded an Olympic berth. If Ja­pan wins, the sec­ond-place fin­isher will be granted the Olympic spot as Ja­pan has an au­to­matic berth as host.

Soft­ball and base­ball were dropped af­ter the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics but have been added to the pro­gram for 2020.

The Amer­i­cans also beat New Zealand 7-0 on Sun­day and are now 4-0 along with Puerto Rico, which beat Tai­wan 12-11.


Cana­dian Mi­los Raonic

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