Massive Win For Milos
Davis Cup excellence helped make Novak Djokovic into No. 1 in the world. Just ask Djokovic. He'll tell you.
Well, maybe it can do similar wonders for Canada's Milos Raonic.
Less than a month after he delivered two dominating singles performances that lifted Canada past South African and into the Davis Cup World Group for 2013, Raonic made a statement in the Far East that will be heard around the tennis world.
He didn't just beat U.S. Open winner and Olympic champion Andy Murray for the second time this year.
He came from behind to do it on Saturday in a semifinal clash in Tokyo at the Japan Open. In fact, he came from two match points down to win a three-set thriller 6-3, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
And he did it by demonstrating the same thing that he demonstrated at Davis Cup in Montreal last month, namely that he's a lot more than just a big server.
Murray had only lost one match since losing the Wimbledon final in July, and leading 4-1 in the third set, it sure looked like he wasn't about to add another defeat to his record. He was in full control, or so it seemed.
But Raonic charged back, breaking Murray to get back on serve, then shaking off two seemingly costly double-faults in the 12th game of the set to force a third set tiebreak. The volley he made to win that game after saving the two match points was breathtaking, and symbolic of his performance on the day.
This was a day, you see, that Raonic owned the net.
When Murray beat him convincingly at the U.S. Open, the Scot was able to get away with slicing back shots and drifting balls back that Raonic wouldn't attack. In Tokyo, Raonic lived at the net, repeatedly putting away volleys and overheads, and continuing to attack even when Murray passed him or forced him into errors.
The Canadian returned serve superbly, much better than he had in New York, and refused to back off the baseline, hitting his backhand more aggressively to push Murray back. Raonic had "only" 13 aces, low by his standards, and it was the rest of his game that lifted him to victory.
He also beat Murray on clay in Barcelona earlier this year.
Raonic will face Japanese star Kei Nishikori in the final. A victory will help Raonic keep alive his faint hopes of qualifying for the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.