Raonic: "The Best Match I've Ever Competed In"
Canadian finishes at a career-high year-end No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings
Milos Raonic was one point from snatching a slice of history at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday. The Canadian sat on the cusp of claiming his biggest victory over World No. 1 Andy Murray, and after three and a half hours he could taste the finish line.
But the longest match on the ATP World Tour this year, and longest three-set affair in the history of the season finale (since records were first kept in 1991), would fall just out of reach. Andy Murray moved one step closer to clinching year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a pulsating 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) victory.
It was a mesmerising thriller at The O2, arguably one of the greatest matches in the tournament’s history. Raonic demonstrated his growing shot-making arsenal and covered every inch of the court behind lightning-fast agility. Despite the defeat, the Canadian showed why he's one of the game's brightest stars.
"It's the best match I've ever competed in," Raonic said. "The way I was constantly trying to stay positive, keep my energy up, trying to fight through, that's definitely the most significant thing I've done today.
"Today I really tried to, in the best way possible, leave it all out there. I turned it around for myself twice there at the end of the third. I turned it around for myself almost there in the tie-break. I just did everything I could, everything that was within me, at least to really try to win. It's that simple."
Twice Murray served for the match deep in the third set and twice Raonic drew proceedings level once again. The Canadian turned aside three match points in the ensuing tie-break, before eventually succumbing after three hours and 38 minutes. Four days after pushing five-time champion Novak Djokovic to two tie-breaks, he once again refused to give in to the pressure, fighting to the very end.
"I have to be proud that I finished the year with giving it every ounce of energy I had. I'll look back at 2016 with a lot of good moments, a lot of pride, a lot to be proud of.
"I think in both matches I had more break point opportunities and more chances. Obviously it can go both ways. But I have to be very proud that I gave myself opportunities, great opportunities, against both of them for the first time this year."
Raonic will finish his best season on the ATP World Tour with a 52-17 mark, including a title run to open the year in Brisbane and finals at Wimbledon, the Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells and on the grass of Queen's Club. He will finish at a career-high No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, after Kei Nishikori lost to Djokovic in Saturday’s semi-finals.
With Murray now poised to contest his first final at the season finale and bid for the year-end top spot, Raonic admits he's looking forward to a showdown between No. 1 and No. 2.
"He's done a lot of great things. He's really stepped up in these moments. [Novak] will be the biggest test, I think. Andy has been the best player in the world definitely for the past six months. That's the only thing that's sort of missing from there, is that showdown with Novak. If that's the scenario tomorrow, it couldn't be a more ideal one, let's say, for a person that loves tennis."