Milos Raonic cast aside a forlorn world No.4 Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-1 7-6(5) to book his fourth Australian Open quarterfinal showing.
The Canadian has already impressed at Melbourne Park, by dismissing Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Pierre-Hugues Herbert en route to the second week.
“Yeah, I think there are obviously benefits,” said Raonic referring to his tricky run so far. “It’s not fun necessarily before the tournament starts to look at it and say, hey, you play Nick to most likely play Stan in the first two rounds. You’re sort of hoping for a bit more time to really work your way into things.
“But then on the other end of it I dealt with those challenges really well. Right now I’m here playing some extremely good tennis, I believe. Hopefully I can make that count.”
World No.17 Raonic canvassed the net with aplomb and capitalised upon a way-off kilter showing from Zverev to book a meeting with 11th seed Borna Coric or Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
“I played incredible today, I did a lot of things incredibly well today and I’m very proud of that,” declared the Australian Open 2016 semifinalist. “It was tough. I had the match points at 4-5 and would have liked to have played those differently. But I kept thinking forward, concentrating on my service games.
“I just had to try and stay composed, it was all working well for me today and I’m happy I finished it off like that.”
A blistering backhand winner down the line signalled a strong sign from the fourth seed as Zverev stole an instant break.
However, the Next Gen talisman began firing well off radar, whereas Raonic was rampant.
The Canadian 16th seed connected with a searing slice on the run to pass Zverev for a 3-1 lead, before a magnificent acute angled volley winner provided the catalyst to steal the opener in style.
A fourth consecutive break was chalked up in favour of Raonic after a forehand whipped past the perplexed German.
Zverev finally held after 47 minutes to limit the damage at 1-2 in the second set, but that was merely temporary, with Raonic capitalising on the fourth seed’s faltering serve to march towards a two sets lead.
There was a significant turnaround from ATP Finals champion Zverev in the third set. The world No.4 was living with the power and precision of the 2016 Wimbledon finalist all the way until 4-5 to the Canadian.
Trouble was brewing when a ninth Zverev double fault rippled the net, moments before two bruising forehand winners sent Raonic two match points.
They were erased by the fourth seed as a tie-break was required to see if Zverev could prolong the encounter.
A scorching backhand pass sparked the German into a roar of celebration, with a 4-2 lead quickly built.
However, the Canadian wielded his cannonball serves and ferocious forehands to dictate the play. A plethora of awkward slices skimmed in front of Zverev and Raonic snatched away the pivotal points with exactly two hours on the clock.
“I had to keep him off pace, he strikes the ball incredibly well, especially when he is dictating” added the Canadian. “My whole objective today was to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible.”
The 28-year-old revealed he would be watching Coric take on Pouille later on Monday evening.
“Borna has been playing incredibly well over the past 12 months,” continued Raonic. “He’s really stepped it up. Whilst Lucas has also been playing really well here. So it’s going to be interesting to watch.”
Raonic is producing results and form that echo his 2016 season, in which he reached the final four in Melbourne, the Wimbledon final and rose to a career high ranking of No.3.
“I think I’m a better player than I was back then. I think back then I just found some situations a little bit easier to deal with, because I had three or two good years from ’14 to ’15 before that, and you don’t have to think about things as much,” said the 28-year-old, who had injuries interrupt his past two campaigns
“Instinct takes over when you have played that many matches consecutively. Now you always have to think about things a bit more because you’re always trying to search for that rhythm, that sort of what should you do, whereas in those situations I don’t think I was really asking myself. I was trusting a lot more.
“As long as I have the freedom to put in the work and with no physical hindrances, I think I can always give myself a chance.”
Source: Alex Sharp