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Raonic wants to extend partnership with McEnroe

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LONDON —¬†Three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe is helping ninth-ranked Milos Raonic prepare for the Grand Slam tournament and the Canadian already wants to see their partnership continue beyond the grass-court season.

“It’s really nice, he’s probably the most energetic 57-year-old I know,” said Raonic, a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2014.

“We laugh. We also share a lot in common off court. He loves art as well, and he has a lot more experience in it than I do. We discuss that quite a bit.”

It also appears to be working on court, with Raonic playing Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday in the Queen’s Club quarterfinals.

Unsurprisingly, coach McEnroe is urging 25-year-old Raonic to be more aggressive.

“Most of the time (the talk) is about positioning on the volleys, where to be, especially when you see a guy maybe sort of off-balance or which angles to cover,” Raonic said. “We have also worked a lot on being quick to realize opportunities to move forward or be aggressive earlier in points.”

With the partnership working on grass, Raonic wants to try it out on other surfaces.

“When I brought John on and asked him if he would like to be a part of this project, there was never an intention of I want to just be better on grass,” said Raonic.

“That was far from it. It was I wanted to take this time to improve considerably and it’s the same things that I can incorporate and use on grass now, but I can incorporate and keep using it on hard courts as well.”

Whether the American, a seven-time major title winner, will be able to commit the time is another matter, but Raonic is not giving up.

“He’s got a pretty full plate, that’s for sure,” Raonic said. “He could be the most beneficial for me leading up to tournaments and then sort of helping me throughout tournaments, whether that be from close or from afar.”

Djokovic lines up Dimitrov at Queen’s Club

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic’s first appearance at Queen’s Club in eight years was successful when he put away Australian qualifier John Millman 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

Djokovic, entered as a wild card, will play second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Also, Milos Raonic, runner-up to Roger Federer last week in Stuttgart, won his opener when Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri retired hurt while trailing 6-1, 3-1.

Djokovic’s comeback from right elbow surgery in January has been gathering pace after reaching the Rome semifinals and French Open quarterfinals. He leads Dimitrov 6-1 in career matchups.

Dimitrov, the 2014 Queen’s champion, struggled past Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3. Dimitrov saved six of eight break points.

Svitolina’s top ambitions survive grass-court struggle

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Elena Svitolina, who came within two wins of becoming world No. 1 in January, maintained her ambitious momentum to reach the top by surviving a tricky start to her Wimbledon build-up on Tuesday.

The second-seeded Svitolina stumbled within sight of a two-set victory, and briefly faltered again in the last set before beating Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Svitolina showed glimpses of the tenacious movement and consistently ferocious drives which have earned her the best win-loss record on the WTA tour since the beginning of last year, but also revealed glimpses of insecurity on the lush, low-bouncing surface.

Despite carving a lead of a set and 3-1, her gradually increasing attempts to win points in the forecourt were of variable quality, while Vekic, a former runner-up here, began to contain and counterattack more effectively.

Svitolina nearly let slip another lead of 3-1, in the last set, needing to save two break points on her next service game – one with a fine serve, and the other with a net attack finished off at the third attempt.

Eventually, the Ukrainian’s determination to adapt tactically to a surface on which she has yet to progress beyond any quarterfinal paid timely dividends, and she accelerated toward the finishing line at a canter.

“I was just trying to play well and to dominate, but she played a couple of great points to break back – which is always nice to have,” said Svitolina, apparently meaning she was pleased to gain extra practice on such a technique-testing surface.

“It was difficult for me because she hit the ball very flat and the first match on grass is always a challenge.”

She next faces Alize Cornet of France, who notably beat Serena Williams at 2014 Wimbledon, and who outlasted former top-10 player Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, by 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.