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Raonic Eyes Title Defence; Istomin Advances

San Jose, U.S.A.

Raonic© Mike Rhodes/SAP OpenMilos Raonic on his way to a fourth ATP World Tour final.

Defending champion Milos Raonic marched into his fourth ATP World Tour final following a 7-6(4), 6-2 win over American Ryan Harrison at the SAP Open on Saturday.

World No. 32 Raonic fired 20 aces and won 81 per cent of points on serve to advance in 78 minutes.

"I think I did a really good job taking care of the serve," said the 21 year old. "What I was doing really well was making most of my first serves. But when I missed a few, I was still playing pretty well on the second serves. In the offseason, I didn’t spend too many days working on the serve. It was more so the return of serve game. And I worked on every aspect, from the baseline to the net. I know when I have time, I try to focus a bit more on the return game and keep improving there."

Raonic levelled the FedEx ATP Head 2 Head between the pair at 1-1, following a three-set loss to Harrison at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells 2011.

"His serve is obviously one of the best in the game. Indoors, it’s definitely not easier," said Harrison. "I was serving pretty good in the first set. It was a very close set. I tried to keep a positive posture, and was trying to at least stay in it as much as I could. You can’t control what happens every single time. The other guy is playing too. You just prepare the way you can and do everything in your control. Sometimes, it’s not enough."

No. 3 seed Raonic, who won the Aircel Chennai Open in the opening week of the 2012 season, is aiming to add to his two ATP World Tour titles. He faces unseeded Denis Istomin in the final after the Uzbekistani defeated fifth-seeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 for the first time in three attempts.

Istomin, into his second ATP World Tour final following New Haven in 2010 (l. to Stakhovsky), won 74 per cent of points on first serve and saved four of five break points faced to advance in two hours and 20 minutes. "In the second set, I started playing a little bit softer,” he said. “As soon as I started playing more aggressive, I broke him and I finished pretty good."

The World No. 61 extends his season record to 9-3. He reached the quarter-final at the Brisbane International (l. to Tomic) and semi-final at the Apia International Sydney (l. to Nieminen). "I started this year really good. I’m really happy to be in the finals here,” continued Istomin. "I feel like I’m in really good physical condition now. Of course, I go to the court to win, but Milos is a very good player. I hope to put up a good fight tomorrow."

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