When all seemed to be going well, a leg injury to Milos Raonic combined with Andy Murray’s punishing style dropped the Canadian out of the Australian Open in the semifinals on Friday.
With relentless court coverage, Murray won the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2, with Raonic’s discomfort becoming apparent in the fourth and fifth sets. Despite the loss, Raonic made history as the first Canadian male singles player to reach the Australian Open semifinals, his second time to this stage of a Grand Slam tournament.
The contest couldn’t have started more ideally for Raonic, the Canadian winning the first game on Murray’s serve at love. On his own opening service game, Raonic too fell behind three break points – as Murray had – only to salvage with a series of strong forehand shots to take a 2-0 lead. Saving one more break point midway through the opener, Raonic held all the way through for a one set lead at 6-4.
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Murray poured it on in the second set, his first serve winning percentage increasing by 20 points (87%) and threatening to break Raonic on his first and third service games. Nonetheless, the Canadian held on until down 6-5 and facing his the third break point of the set. This time Raonic, who had won nine of 10 net points in the set, couldn’t recover, crashing a backhand volley into the mesh down 30-40 giving Murray the crucial final point as the match evened up at one set apiece.
If fans were looking for a footrace in the third set, they would’ve had to race out of the Rod Laver Arena themselves, as the action inside quickly turned server-take-all. The first 21 points of the set were won by the serving player exclusively, before things became slightly interesting in Murray’s final three games when Raonic had a couple of openings. All doors were firmly shut by the Brit, including a break point at 5-5, before the tiebreak. It was then that a couple of early minibreaks from Raonic (despite losing one of his serves), gave the Canadian the edge he needed to take the tiebreak 7-4 for a two-sets-to-one lead.
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When Raonic looked to be rolling with a 2-1 lead in the fourth set, the Canadian took a five minute off court medical timeout for an injury to the upper right leg area. The treatment seemed to reverse momentum that was in Raonic’s favour prior to the stoppage. He lost serve on his second game since returning from the dressing room, an edge on which Murray consolidated for a 5-3 lead in the set despite some difficulties, including facing break point. On Serve, the Scotsman evened the match at two sets each, staring down two break points against an ailing Raonic.
The injury to Raonic became more severe as the match wore on. In the final set he struggled to serve losing the first game on a double fault. Knowing his fate was likely sealed, a frustrated Raonic smashed his racket several times against the hard court of the arena. Murray quickly compounded the misery winning the next three games. Nonetheless, Raonic continued to chase down points best he could, later serving out an ace (one of his 23 in total) on the fifth game to get on board. He continued to employ the serve and volley to help win a second service game, before Murray closed out the match at 6-2.
The loss is Raonic’s first of the season in 10 matches, after winning the Brisbane International earlier, where he beat Roger Federer. Raonic also beat another top player, Stan Wawrinka, on his way to the semifinal in Melbourne.
Murray, the number two seed, will play the world number one Novak Djokovic in the final.
One Canadian who did advance to a final in the Australian Open is Daniel Nestor in men’s doubles. Along with Czech Partner Radek Stepanek, Nestor will face another Murray, Andy’s brother Jamie on the weekend.