RAKUTEN OPEN 2012
Raonic Saves 2 M.P. To Oust Murray In SFs; Nishikori Cruises
by ATP Staff|
Sixth seed Milos Raonic knocked out reigning Tokyo champion Andy Murray at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Saturday, saving two match points to win 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(4) against the World No. 3.
“Here, from the first match, I’ve been more aggressive, have come in as much as I can when I’ve created the opportunities and play under my terms more so than just waiting around,” said Raonic. “A big thing I changed coming into this week, is that I’m returning a lot closer. That took time. A big part of it is mental, preparing [myself] for that and having that instinct and drive to go after it when [I] have the opportunities to get ahead in the points.”
It’s the second straight day Raonic battled back from the brink of defeat, having saved a match point in his quarter-final win over third seed Janko Tipsarevic, prevailing in a deciding tie-break in that clash as well. The 21 year old improved to 2-1 against Murray this season, adding to his quarter-final win in Barcelona and avenging a fourth-round loss at Flushing Meadows to the eventual US Open titlist.
The 15th-ranked Raonic is bidding for his third trophy of the year and could move up from No. 14 to No. 10 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings Race To London if he wins the title on Sunday. The Top 8 players qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Raonic broke the top-seeded Murray to love to begin the match and held his own against one of the game’s premier returners in the first two sets, facing just one break point. But after Murray won the second set tie-break, the Scot converted his first break of the match in the third set, and opened up a 4-1 lead. Raonic however, got the set back on serve in the seventh game. Up 6-5 with Raonic serving, Murray had two chances to close out victory, but couldn’t capitalise and Raonic went on to clinch the hard-fought win in two hours and 46 minutes in the ensuing tie-break.
“From my side, I would have liked to have started the match better. That would have helped me,” Murray said. “But he played well behind his serve, especially in the first couple of sets. That made it tough for me.”
In Sunday’s title match, Raonic will face eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who ended the wait for fans to see a home grown player compete for the Tokyo trophy following his 6-2, 6-2 dismissal of Marcos Baghdatis.
“It’s an incredible feeling because I’m in a final in my home country,” Nishikori told RakutenOpen.com. “I didn’t think I would be in the final, so I’m very happy. I haven’t won a tournament in four years so hopefully I can win tomorrow.”
The 17th-ranked Nishikori controlled the match from the beginning, and never allowed Baghdatis to get involved. Nishikori won 77 per cent of his service points, did not face a break point, and converted two breaks against the Cypriot in each set to lock up the victory in just over an hour of play.
Nishikori is through to his first final in 2012, and will look to capture his first title since winning his maiden ATP World Tour crown at Delray Beach in 2008 (d. Blake). The Japanese No. 1 claimed his first win in four meetings against Baghdatis and improved to a 34-17 season record.