Rafa rolls past Raonic into semis
Originally published on 25/01/17 00:00
The world No.9 won 6-4 7-6(7) 6-4 in two hours and 44 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
It was, for the most part, a tightly-contested match, but Nadal was steadfast in the key moments while Raonic was left to rue a series of missed opportunities, particularly in the second set.
With the chance to level the match, Raonic saw six set points pass him by as Nadal won a tense tiebreak to take a two-set lead, and with it the momentum.
Raonic had won a tight three-setter in Brisbane three weeks ago, but the Canadian had no answer to Nadal’s fearsome groundstrokes and solid match play in Melbourne.
"I think I am not an arrogant person so I always have doubts," Nadal said. "lt is normal. Even when I was winning a lot I had doubts. So when I am not winning or have injuries I have more. When you have doubts you work more. I had a great career and a lot of tough moments and it makes me enjoy even more the good moments I am having today."
"Milos beat me three weeks ago in Brisbane so I decided to go a little more inside the return," he added. "He has one of the top two serves and can play so aggressive on the returm. I had to concentrate on my serve and accept the difficulties."
The Canadian received a medical timeout midway through the second set and appeared at times to be impeded by an injury to his leg, but it was an impressive all-round performance from Nadal, who won 83% of points on his first serve and dealt well with the 6’6” Raonic’s big serve.
It was the Spaniard who drew first blood, breaking for a 4-3 lead when Raonic fired a smash long, and it was a solid performance from Nadal, who made just two unforced errors in the opening set.
Raonic came under further pressure on his serve in the second set, but managed to keep his nose in front, and the Wimbledon finalist had three set points in the 10th game, and while Nadal saved two of them with some gutsy tennis, Raonic was left to rue a wayward forehand that saw Nadal live to fight on in the second set.
Another three set points came and went for Raonic in the tiebreak, and when his forehand ricocheted off the top of the net and wide, the result appeared inevitable.
Raonic refused to crumble, keeping himself in the match, but once again at the critical end of the set, mistakes began to creep in and serving to stay in the match, the world No.3 surrendered three match points, and while he saved the first, he was helpless to prevent Nadal wrapping up a straight sets victory and a first Grand Slam semi-final since Roland Garros in 2014.
Standing between Nadal and a first Grand Slam final since winning his ninth French Open title three years ago is Grigor Dimitrov, a 6-3 6-2 6-4 winner against David Goffin.
"Grigor is a great player," Nadal said. "Everybody thought he would be a top, top player before today. Finally he has started the season unbelievably. Last year was tough for him and when you come back strong it gives you even more power. I expect a tough match."
Nadal is one match away from a potential Grand Slam final against long-time rival and 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer. The pair have played on 34 previous occasions, but have not met in a major final since 2011.
"I think it's amazing, after a tough injury to have Roger back in the semis again is great," said Nadal. "Especially for him and all the people who love tennis."