Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Milos Raonic continued his winning ways Friday afternoon at the Western & Southern Open in New York, knocking out No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach his fourth Masters 1000 final and first since 2016.
After saving match point in Wednesday’s three-set thriller against Filip Krajinovic, Raonic masterfully played his Tsitsipas semi-final like a player with nothing to lose. That, coupled with confidence from their January encounter where the Raonic emerged victorious against the Greek in the third round of the Australian Open, appeared to be a major factor in the Canadian’s attacking mindset throughout the match.
Although it initially appeared to be Tsitsipas in firm control of proceedings early on, the Raonic serve, as always, kept him within touching distance of the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion throughout the first set. The elegant one-handed Tsitsipas backhand and smooth forehands allowed him control of the majority of the rallies, but a nearly untouchable Raonic first-serve delivery allowed the latter to overcome a set point against him and raise his level at the right moments to claim the first in a tense tiebreak.
Confidence was pouring from Raonic as he began the second set. His live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword approach to serving was wreaking havoc on Tsitsipas’ rhythm, and, despite two double faults, served his way into the lead.
Three games, later, he’d get his chance to break.
Tsitsipas had yet to be broken in the week and Raonic is hardly known for his returning, but a defensive hustle from the 6’5” Canadian on break point, punctuated by a lucky net clip on a backhand down-the-line pass, earned him the coveted break.
From there, given how was he was serving, the rest of the set was merely a formality. After one hour and 37 minutes of play, 12 aces and a staggering 90% of first serve points won, the match was Raonic’s.
In the final, the former World No. 3 will face either Novak Djokovic (0-10) or Roberto Bautista Agut (5-0) for his maiden Masters 1000 title. Seven years after reaching his first championship at this tournament level, is he finally ready to lift the trophy?