The Canadian Ace
Guess Milos Raonic just got a bit weery of the proverbial close-but-no-cigar stuff.
He'd felt the pain of losing marathon matches, including dropping a 25-23 final set to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2012 Olympics and a five-setter just days ago to Richard Gasquet at the U.S. Open.
Enough, Raonic figured, was enough.
So with all kinds of reasons to lose - a hostile environment, a turned ankle, suspicious groundskeeping techniques, an uphill battle and even being one point from a major defeat for his country - this time Raonic delivered victory.
It took more than four hours for Raonic to knock off Janko Tipsarevic on Day One of the world semifinal Davis Cup clash between Canada and Serbia, and that included a fifth and decided set that went well beyond the norm.
Deadlocked 8-8, Raonic finally broke the veteran Tipsarevic, slicing a backhand low to Tipsarevic's backhand and then attacking the net on the deciding point.
Then, with four aces on five points, he held to give Team Canada the win, most necessary after Vasek Pospisil had been overwhelmed by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic earlier in the day.
Had Raonic lost - and he trailed for most of the match - the tie would have basically been decided in Serbia's favour. Canada would have had to win the doubles on Saturday and then beat both Djokovic and Tipsarevic on Sunday to advance to the Davis Cup final.
Raonic, however, came through again for his country, and is now 5-0 for Canada at the Davis Cup in 2013. He pounded 34 aces past Tipsarevic, who won the first set and the third but couldn't close the deal against the taller Canadian, who has now won all four career matches between the two.
Seventeen of those aces came in the marathon fifth set, and Raonic admitted the memories of the recent loss to Gasquet was very much on his mind.
"I didn't want to let happen what happened 10 days ago happen again," he said.
On a makeshirt red clay indoor surface, Raonic turned his right ankle in the third set, but taped it up and played on. After he won the fourth set, the groundskeeping crew decided to water the court, which coincidentally slowed it down for the fifth set, a disadvantage to the hard-serving Canadian.
Trailing 4-5 in the fifth set, Raonic found himself facing a match point. His first set found net with the umpire unable to stop the pro-Serbian crowd from hooting and whistling, but made his second over the noise and won the point when Tipsarevic's lob sailed two inches long.
Finally came the break, and then the four aces to end it. In all, Raonic hit 105 winners, more than compensating for his 83 unforced errors.
On Saturday, the doubles team of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil will try to give Canada the lead against Serbia's tandem of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac. Nestor and Zimonjic, of course, were a terrific team themselves from 2008-2010, winning three Grand Slam titles including a pair of Wimbledon triumphs.