Japan Open - Raonic fights off two match points to bounce Murray in semi-final
By Rob Soria
Canadian tennis sensation Milos Raonic pulled off arguably the biggest win of his career on Saturday morning, sending home top seed and US Open champion Andy Murray, with a hard fought 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 victory in the semi-finals of the 2012 Japan Open.
Edmonton - October 6, 2012 - Apparently knocking off third seed Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals of the Japan Open wasn't enough to satisfy Milos Raonic. The Canadian stepped up a few weight classes in the semi-finals, sending home top seed and US Open champion Andy Murray, with a hard fought 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 victory.
Raonic had given his all against Murray in the fourth round of last month's US Open but the Scot had little trouble dismissing him in straight sets. This time around, things would be very different.
After being unable to even get a sniff on Murray's serve at Flushing Meadows, the hard hitting Canadian broke him in the opening game. The early break seemed to allow Milos to settle into the match and simply play his game. The unforced errors that would usually leak through his game, against the better players in the world, were absent and his serve was clicking from the outset.
He closed out the opening set in the same fashion that he opened it, breaking Murray for a second time, to jump out to the early lead. Though the Olympic champion seemed a little sluggish, full marks go to Raonic for jumping on the opportunity and putting the defending champ on the ropes.
To Murray's credit, despite not having his "A" game, he managed to push the second set into a tiebreaker and give himself a shot at forcing a third set. Raonic would be the first to crack, missing a volley at 5-5 and handing the number three player in the world a set point, which he gladly took to even things up at a set apiece.
From that point on, Murray took over. He broke the number six seed early in the third, with a world-class passing shot, to go up 3-1 and than held serve to make it 4-1. At that point, it looked to be all but over. It was just a matter of when...not if.
However, for the first time in his young career, Raonic managed to turn the tide against one of the elite players in the world. After holding serve to make it 4-2, Milos stunned not only the fans but Murray himself, breaking back to get back on serve. The two stayed on serve the rest of the way, though Raonic held off two match points at 4-5 to stay alive, sending them to yet another tiebreaker.
This time around, the hard serving Canuck took control of the breaker and did not allow Murray a chance to get back in. He road his booming serve to a 7-4 win in the tiebreaker and his second victory of the season over Murray. Pretty impressive stuff.
The problem many, myself included, have had with Raonic, has been his inability to step up when it mattered most and consistently seize the opportunity...against all comers. Cracking the top fifteen in the world was no small feat but for Milos to take his game to the next level, those lapses had to stop and an improvement in his return game, wouldn't hurt either.
On this day he showed both and not surprisingly, the result was a favourable one. It is one thing to knock off a player like Andy Murray in the early rounds of a tournament but something completely different to do it on the final weekend of an event. Those guys are next to impossible to beat, when they can taste victory, making this result even more impressive. When it's all said and done, this match could very well end up being the turning point in the twenty-one year old's career.
With the win, Raonic advances to tomorrow's final against Kei Nishikori, who made quick work of Marcos Baghdatis in the other semifinal, 6-2, 6-2. Nishikori, who currently sits seventeenth on the ATP Rankings list, will obviously have the support of the fans behind him, being the hometown favourite, but Milos needs to find a way to close it out and bring home his third ATP title of the season.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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