January 25, 2016
Milos Raonic has knocked out 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka in a five-set thriller in Melbourne, making a mockery of his odds at the start of the tournament.
It was the first time in five tries that Raonic had beaten Wawrinka – and he was clearly delighted afterwards.
‘This is the next step for me,’ he said. ‘To achieve the goals I want to achieve. Just looking for what I can do better.’
We had already pointed out, in our Grand Slam preview piece, that it was ridiculous for the big Canadian to be overlooked as a 33-1 outsider at the outset, when all the recent signs suggested his game was coming together at the right time.
Sure enough, Wawrinka struggled to contain the formidable Raonic serve-and-volley game, and fell two sets behind almost before he knew it. Ever the fighter, however, Stan spotted a change in pace and took full advantage to set up a pulsating finish.
Wawrinka explained: ‘I tried to fight like always, I tried to find a solution and I think he went a little down with his speed, with his movement. I took the opportunity to push him to the fifth set.’
But Raonic then called on what he described as the ‘calm’ that has entered his game since he teamed up with new coach, Carlos Moya.
‘He just brings calm and understanding of how I can be more efficient in my game,’ the 13th seed said.
The result was that Raonic was able to raise his level once more and coolly closed out with a volley at the net to secure a stunning 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 win.
Later Stan revealed he had been suffering from a virus. ‘I think I’ve honestly come from too far, I’ve been sick for ten days now,’ he said. ‘When you play a top guy like Milos, it’s difficult. You need to be 100 per cent to have a chance to beat him.’
Now Raonic will face Gael Monfils, the acrobatic Frenchman who injured himself while attempting a spectacular diving retrieve during his 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Andrey Kuznetsov.
‘I cannot even grip anything right now,’ said Monfils, ‘I have a deep cut, but that’s nothing. I’m lucky not to have a fracture. But you know, I’m not a rock.’
Monfils should be ready to go again against the Canadian, despite his cut and bruises. However, if Raonic can hold his nerve once more, he must be favourite to make his first Australian Open semi-final.
Meanwhile David Ferrer and Andy Murray both won through in straight sets against John Isner and Bernard Tomic respectively. Isner fought hard to turn the tide against Ferrer, who nevertheless refused to release his stranglehold on the match and won 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
Murray achieved admirable levels of concentration to see off Tomic 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), despite the off-court concerns the Scotsman must have, after his father-in-law collapsed at the weekend, while Andy’s wife still awaits the birth of their first child back in England.
‘The last few days have been pretty tough. It’s been a stressful few days. Things have been changing all the time. I’ll try to refocus,’ said Murray bravely.
There was more on-court joy, at least, for Britain when Johanna Konta defeated Ekaterina Makarova 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in a dramatic marathon of a contest, one that lasted a punishing three hours and four minutes.
‘It was mentally, emotionally and physically draining,’ said a delighted Konta after becoming the first Brit woman to make the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam since Jo Durie at Wimbledon in 1984.
That’s the Australian Open for you! Never a dull moment and always a huge physical and psychological test so early in the year.
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