Murray Fires Into Cincy Final With Aplomb
The two-time Cincinnati champion (2008, '11) prevailed 6-3, 6-3 over fourth seed Milos Raonic, extending his career-long unbeaten run to 22 straight matches. It marks the 33rd straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event that has featured a member of the Big Four in the final.
"I didn't get broken the last couple of matches and when I was in difficult situations I made good choices," Murray said. "That's helped keep the matches shorter. If you're a bit lower on confidence, regardless of how fresh you are, if you haven't played loads of matches you make bad decisions in those moments. And because I've won a lot the last few months, that's something that has been good, especially this week for sure. I've needed it to be because I haven't been feeling perfect. I've managed to get through the matches pretty well."
As it has all week, rain steadily coated the Lindner Family Tennis Center Murray on Saturday. Murray and Raonic only played four points before the skies opened once again, halting the action for 12 minutes with the Scot holding two break points at 15/40. He would waste no time in snatching the lead upon resumption, breaking immediately with a dipping cross-court forehand that caught Raonic out of position.
Murray would overcome deficits in each of his first three service games, surviving a pair of break points in the process. His second serve defense was on song in claiming 67 per cent of such points in the 52-minute opener. The top seed continued to apply pressure on the Raonic serve in the latter stages, breaking to secure the first set and converting another break in the eighth game of the second. After letting a pair of match points slip while serving for it at 5-3, he would regroup to seal the victory after 90 minutes. A sublime drop volley clinched his spot in the final.
"I think he was trying to be aggressive," Murray reflected on Raonic's performance. "I think he made maybe more mistakes than usual because of that. Maybe it appeared that he was being more aggressive, but I felt like he made more mistakes because he was trying to be more aggressive than usual. That's how it felt to me."
Murray, who fired 18 winners and saved all three break points faced, notched his fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head victory over Raonic this year, extending his overall lead to 8-3. Raonic, who struck 31 unforced errors, was bidding to leap to a career-high World No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a win. Murray played the role of spoiler for a third time this year, after stopping the Canadian in his quest to reach a first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open and win his maiden major title at Wimbledon.
The Dunblane native, who joined the '600 Wins Club' earlier in the week, will play for a third Cincinnati title and 13th at the Masters 1000 level against either Grigor Dimitrov or Marin Cilic. He previously defeated Novak Djokovic in the final in both 2008 and '11.
"I think it's going to come down to certain things," said Raonic. "I got to obviously serve much better than I did today. Today I also did a better job of creating opportunities on his serve that I didn't make count. I had three break chances and three second serves; I put the ball in twice. No, I put the ball in once on second serves.
"That is not a formula of success by any means. It's going to come down to a few important points, playing them better, and obviously executing better than I did on my end of things when it comes to my service games than I did today."