March 16

Milos Raonic was denied a final appearance against Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open after losing 7-6(3), to seventh seed Dominic Thiem on Saturday in Indian Wells. Despite a great run at the tournament, Raonic couldn’t follow in the footsteps of 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who qualified for the women’s final the previous night.

With a clash against Federer on the line for the winner following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal prior to their semi-final due to injury, Raonic and Thiem both opted for cool and calculated game plans. Neither player dropped their serve in the first set, forcing a tiebreak to separate them.

A double fault meant Raonic made arguably the worst possible start – and that error seemed to give Thiem the confidence he needed to go on and claim the first set 7-6(3).

Both players continued to serve strongly in the second set. Raonic faced a break point in the fourth game but he saw it off with relative ease, coming back to deuce before firing the winner. Again, the duo were forced to settle the set via a tiebreak.

Raonic, whose passage to this stage of the tournament had featured wins over Sam Querrey, Marcos Giron, Jan-Lennard Struff and Miomir Kecmanović, used his powerful serve to provide a strong base in the tiebreak before setting up three break point opportunities. He didn’t need them all, though, claiming the set 7-6(3) on the first point possible.

The match’s first break of serve came as late as the fifth game of the third set. Thiem fought fiercely to manufacture two break point opportunities, taking the second thanks to an unforced error by Raonic which handed the Austrian a 3-2 lead. The 13th-seeded Canadian wouldn’t back down from a comeback opportunity, however, fighting his way to a first break point of the match in the ultimate game as Thiem served for match. An ill-advised drop shot from the Austrian presented Raonic the opportunity he needed to level proceedings, but a sliced approach just long was the last look he’d get. After two hours, 31 minutes, the match was Thiem’s.

An excellent week in the desert sees Raonic climb up to either No. 7 or 8 (depending on Thiem’s result in the final) in the year-to-date rankings, and represents another step forward in the Canadian’s quest to return to the Top 10.

(Feature photo: Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)