Milos Masterclass: Raonic Soars Into Quarter-Finals
If this is the new and improved Milos Raonic, the rest of the ATP Tour better take notice in 2019.
Raonic produced a glittering performance on Rod Laver Arena on Monday afternoon, efficiently dismissing Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(5) in a tidy one hour and 59 minutes. The Canadian booked his spot in the Australian Open quarter-finals for the fourth time in five years. He now faces Lucas Pouille, a four-set winner over Borna Coric. Read Report
"The tension was palpable in the end," Raonic said after sealing the win on his fourth match point. "I tried to keep him off pace and make him as uncomfortable as possible. It worked today."
For the first hour and three minutes, Raonic could do no wrong. He broke a rattled Zverev four times in a row to surge to a 6-1, 6-1 lead. The German claimed the initial advantage with a break in the opening game of the match, but it was one-way traffic from there for the Canadian. Zverev managed to win just five of 22 points behind his second serve in the opening two sets.
"I have been struggling with my second serve the whole week," said Zverev. "I don't have a lot of rhythm on it, so I tried to figure that out, I tried to work on that. Hopefully I will be better next time."
One of Raonic's 15 aces sealed the first set and a return winner gave him the second. Zverev started to find his rhythm in the third set, but it was too late. He saved two match points at 4-5 15/40 and one more at 4/6 in the ensuring tie-break, but Raonic would eventually clinch the victory with a volley winner on his fourth opportunity.
"I'm happy with how I dealt with numerous situations throughout the match and how I played. I think I did some things extremely well," said Raonic.
Raonic now owns a 2-1 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having also prevailed in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2017. Zverev's lone win came at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome earlier that year.
The former World No. 3 continues his quest to return to the Top 10 after suffering from a litany of injury issues. He most recently withdrew from the Rolex Paris Masters in October with an elbow injury, after undergoing a wrist operation the year before. Now sitting at No. 17 in the ATP Rankings, the 28-year-old is projected to rise to at least No. 14 with his quarter-final run.
Raonic has enjoyed great success this fortnight against tricky competition. After defeating Nick Kyrgios in straight sets, he proceeded to rally past former champion Stan Wawrinka and edge Pierre-Hugues Herbert, before routing World No. 4 Zverev. It was Raonic's first Top 5 win since last year's Mutua Madrid Open, when he ousted Grigor Dimitrov in the first round.
"I think there are obviously benefits [to a tough draw]," said Raonic. "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."
Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Zverev was aiming to become just the second German since Tommy Haas in 2007 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals. In 2017, Zverev's older brother, Mischa Zverev, achieved the feat, beating Andy Murray to advance to the last eight.
"I played bad. The first two sets especially I played horrible," said Zverev. "It's just tough to name on one thing. I didn't serve well and didn't play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it's tough to come back from that."