By Mike McIntyre
It was undeniably a week to remember at the Rogers Cup in Toronto for 19 year old Providence native Jared Donaldson. With many of the top players in the world skipping the event to prepare for the Rio Olympics, Donaldson was one of a handful of players who seized the opportunity to step-up and go deeper in a tournament of this magnitude than they normally might.
Making his way first through the qualifying draw, Donaldson then won two rounds at a Masters level event for the first time in his career. As the next generation of American tennis players attempt to make their mark on tour, it was Donaldson, the second youngest among them in the top 150, who served notice this week that he is ready to achieve more.
Reality set in however during his Thursday night match on Center Court against heavy favorite and hometown hero Milos Raonic, the tournament’s fourth seed. A player like Raonic was clearly a notch above John Millman, who Donaldson beat in the first round, as well as clay court specialist and notorious headcase Fabio Fognini who he took down in round two.
Donaldson was in trouble from the onset against the Canadian and quickly found himself down 3-0. His first serve in particular failed him early and he was unable to put one into play until his fifteenth service attempt of the match. With a second serve speed averaging a mere 88 miles per hour, there was no way Donaldson would be able to trouble a player of Raonic’s caliber.
Raonic meanwhile was his usual lethal self from the service line and ended the match with fifteen aces to Donaldson’s three. Donaldson never got a look at a break point on the Canadian’s serve and later alluded to the fact that he was out of his element against such a top level opponent. “It was really just a different pace and a different level of tennis that I wasn’t used to,” Donaldson admitted. “His serve compared to mine was just in a different universe pretty much.”
The Canadian was on the offensive the entire match and managed to neutralize Donaldson’s weapons throughout the encounter. Raonic would go on to win the match in routine fashion by a score of 6-2, 6-3.
Overall the week was a memorable one for Donaldson that he hopes will continue to help propel his young career in the right direction. Going three rounds in a Masters 1000 event gives him a nice bump of 90 points in the ATP World Tour rankings that should see him move closer to the top 130 in the world from his current spot at 147. That would represent a career-high for the young talent.
Donaldson now has plans for a heavy schedule to take him to the U.S. Open at the end of August including a stop in Atlanta next week followed by the inaugural tournament in Los Cabos and then the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati if his ranking will allow him into qualifying.
With a renewed confidence from his week here in Canada, Donaldson exuded positivity even after his one-sided loss to Raonic. When asked about his outlook on the remainder of the season he reflected, “I had the biggest win of my career till this point beating Fognini in the second round so I think there are a lot of positives to take away from this week even though tonight didn’t go my way. But you know I’m on to the next tournament and hopefully I can carry on my good performance.”