Raonic Fights Back Into Familiar Territory
Milos Raonic might not feel as if he's playing 100 per cent like his old self, but, early into his comeback season, the Canadian has already returned to familiar territory on the ATP World Tour.
The 2016 Indian Wells finalist (l. to Djokovic) reached his third BNP Paribas Open semi-final (2015) on Friday, beating Sam Querrey of the U.S. for the third consecutive time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. The 6'5” right-hander is into his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final in 17 months (2016 Paris).
Raonic's improved tennis has no doubt carried him during the past week but he said the conditions and the vibe around the Indian Wells Tennis Garden have also helped him again this year.
“I just have a personal calm at this event maybe compared to others. It's a little bit quieter here. It's easier to be around the tennis. You don't have to fight through traffic to get here. You get here with ease. So I think that gives me a personal calm,” Raonic said.
“I think the conditions help. Obviously this year it's quite a bit slower than it has been in the past, but the ball still moves through the air even though the court slows it down a bit. But it's always bounced high. So I think there have been a lot of things that have contributed to me feeling comfortable here.”
Raonic came through the old-school way in his semi-final – serving and volleying and attacking the net against Querrey, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final. The 32nd seed rushed the net 43 times, winning about half of those attempts (21). He also slapped 43 winners to only 25 unforced errors.
But it was Querrey who was rolling early in their semi-final. When he stepped up to the line to serve at 5-4, the American had lost only three points on serve. But nerves struck Querrey, who had played in a Wimbledon semi-final but never a Masters 1000 quarter-final, and he lost his way. Raonic won 17 of the set's final 21 points, including two breaks of serve, to take the opener.
“I made him play a few, and he started a little bit to just doubt himself, because he wasn't in any rhythm, either,” Raonic said. “I just made him have to beat me there, and he sort of wasn't able to do so.”
The home favourite Querrey, however, came back quickly, breaking twice in the second set and ridding himself of any first-set flashbacks by winning the set with a love service game. The decider came down to the wire, mirroring their tight FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Raonic broke in the eighth game but, as he tried to serve out the match, Querrey had three opportunities to break, all of which were saved by the Canadian.
Raonic is now two wins away from his maiden Masters 1000 title.
“A lot of things were very good. I have to be disciplined with myself to put a good level consistently throughout, from start to end. I was a little bit up and down too much, and if I don't get lucky like I did at the end of that first set, it's a very different storyline,” Raonic said. “So it's important, I'm happy about it, but still got a long ways to go, a lot of things to keep working on and doing better.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Raonic has reached three Masters 1000 finals: 2013 Canada (l. to Nadal), 2014 Paris (l. to Djokovic), 2016 Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic).