Raonic Roars Past Wawrinka
Milos Raonic might feel as if he's already returned to the Australian Open semi-finals, his draw has been that stacked this week. But the Canadian has reached only the third round, a prize he'll still happily accept.
The 2016 semi-finalist knocked out his second former Top 15 player on Thursday, beating 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in a fight worthy of the second week 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-6(11), 7-6(5). Raonic beat former World No. 13 Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday and has now beaten Wawrinka three consecutive times (3-4 overall).
The Canadian's missile serves and crafty net play propelled him for the second time this week. The 16th seed hit 39 aces and approached the net nearly 100 times, winning the point 72 per cent of the time (69/96).
But Raonic returned well under pressure, too. In the second set tie-break, three set points had come and gone for both Wawrinka and Raonic. But at 11/11, Raonic stole a mini-break and served out the set.
In the fourth, Wawrinka, whose backhand was reminiscent of years past, led 5-2 and served to force a fifth set at 5-4. Raonic, however, broke for only the second time, and, in the tie-break, he won the match on Wawrinka's racquet when the Swiss sailed a backhand wide.
“I was very fortunate to stay alive in that fourth set,” said Raonic, who will face France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the fourth round.
The match ended indoors, a fact not lost on Raonic. Rain halted play for about 30 minutes towards the end of the third set before the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena. “I think my record indoors has always been better than my record outdoors,” said Raonic. “I think [when there is] less external factors, you sort of get a more consistent feel on the serve. Depending on if it's overcast or not, the roof gives you a reference point for the ball toss."
“It’s frustrating to lose to a match with four tie-breaks,” said Wawrinka. “I think the level today was quite good. I'm happy if I look at the big picture. I'm happy with my level, the way I was moving, the way I'm playing in general. I think he also played really well. For sure, when it's that tight, the match can change in one, two points. It's frustrating to lose early here, as I wanted to go deeper [and] I wanted to win more matches… I'm looking forward for the rest of the year.”
Herbert matched his best Grand Slam performance with his 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against South Korea's Hyeon Chung, who beat Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic last year en route to the semi-finals. The Frenchman reached the third round at the 2016 Australian Open, 2016 Wimbledon and 2018 Roland Garros.
When asked about facing Herbert, Raonic said, “He's played well. Two very good wins over Sam and over Chung. I think we're going to try to play a similar way. I think he does things at the net well. He tries to play aggressive. He tries to take swipes at the ball. I think we're both going to be looking for the opportunity to dictate and who can control more.”
Elsewhere, Belgian No. 21 seed David Goffin committed just 17 unforced errors to work his way past Marius Copil of Romania 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 42 minutes. Two years ago he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. He now meets Russian No. 15 seed Daniil Medvedev, who beat Ryan Harrison of the United States 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.