Thiem keen to break Canadian duck

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MONTREAL (AFP) – Montreal Masters second seed Dominic Thiem remained confident on Monday that he is in position to win a first ATP match in Canada after five career defeats.

The champion on clay at the weekend in Kitzbuehel, world number four Thiem is seeded second behind defending champion Rafael Nadal in the hardcourt tuneup for the US Open.

“Oh-and-five is a shocking stat,” acknowledged the Austrian of his record of futility in Canada.

“The tournament is really strong again now,” added Thiem, who will open his campaign in the second round against either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or home favorite Denis Shapovalov.

Thiem, runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros the past two years, has won three ATP titles this year, including Barcelona where he beat Nadal in the semi-finals and the Indian Wells Masters in March.

He is riding a wave of confidence after winning his first trophy at home in the alpine report of Kitzbuehel on Saturday.

“It was such an emotional week, four matches in front of a sold-out Austrian crowd with my first title on home soil,” he said.

“It was not the biggest title of my career, but probably the most beautiful one.

“I couldn t come here with more confidence,” Thiem added. “It s not going to be easy with the switch from clay to hard court in only three days and with a very tough first opponent.

“I really like the way I m playing right now, so we ll see.”

Opening day action saw a pair of French players exit early as 2014 winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Australian Open quarter-finalist Lucas Pouille crashed out.

Tsonga, still fighting back to form after knee surgery last season, had originally withdrawn from the event, but received a last-minute wild card entry.

He slumped to a 6-2, 6-2 defeat by German Jan-Lennard Struff while Pouille, with coach Amelie Mauresmo looking on, lost to Canada s Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4.

The 60th-ranked Tsonga indicated he would now focus on weekend qualifying rounds at the last major tune-up prior to the US Open in Cincinnati.

Australian Open semi-finalist Pouille was shell-shocked after his hammering by Raonic, his fourth from five meetings with the towering Canadian.

“There is really nothing to say about my game – it was not there today,” said Pouille.

“There were no rallies, it was nothing special. In these kind of matches, it s only about return and serve.

“It s really, really when he s serving like this, something like 70 per cent first serve. He s really tough to read and to return.

“It was difficult, but I knew it would be like this against Milos.”

Pouille had two aces compared to 16 for Raonic, the 2013 finalist here against Rafael Nadal.

Pouille has struggled to find his game after his career-best Grand Slam run in Melbourne, which was followed in spring by a Roland Garros second-round exit.

Though he tried to improve on grass, his best showing was a Stuttgart quarter-final, with a third-round defeat by Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

“This is just the beginning of the second part of the season,” Pouille said. “I have to keep working, trying to keep pushing hard to come back at my best level.”

In other results, local wild card Brayden Schnur lost to American Tommy Paul 6-1, 6-2 and Briton Cameron Norrie advanced over Marton Fucsovics 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

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