Milos Raonic might feel as if he’s already returned to the Australian Open semi-finals, his draw has been that stacked this week. But the Canadian has reached only the third round, a prize he’ll still happily accept.
The 2016 semi-finalist knocked out his second former Top 15 player on Thursday, beating 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in a fight worthy of the second week 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-6(11), 7-6(5). Raonic beat former World No. 13 Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday and has now beaten Wawrinka three consecutive times (3-4 overall).
Clutch Kei Comes Through Once More
The Canadian’s missile serves and crafty net play propelled him for the second time this week. The 16th seed hit 39 aces and approached the net nearly 100 times, winning the point 72 per cent of the time (69/96).
But Raonic returned well under pressure, too. In the second set tie-break, three set points had come and gone for both Wawrinka and Raonic. But at 11/11, Raonic stole a mini-break and served out the set.
In the fourth, Wawrinka, whose backhand was reminiscent of years past, led 5-2 and served to force a fifth set at 5-4. Raonic, however, broke for only the second time, and, in the tie-break, he won the match on Wawrinka’s racquet when the Swiss sailed a backhand wide.
“I was very fortunate to stay alive in that fourth set,” said Raonic, who will face France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the fourth round.
The match ended indoors, a fact not lost on Raonic. Rain halted play for about 30 minutes towards the end of the third set before the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena. “I’m thankful that it was indoors,” he said.
Herbert matched his best Grand Slam performance with his 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, who beat Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic last year en route to the semi-finals. The Frenchman reached the third round at the 2016 Australian Open, 2016 Wimbledon and 2018 Roland Garros.