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Djokovic Outclasses Raonic; Plays Gulbis In Roland Garros SFs

Paris, France

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic celebrates reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals for a sixth time. He will play Ernests Gulbis on Friday.

Novak Djokovic is two match wins away from reclaiming No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and becoming the eighth man in tennis history to complete the career Grand Slam. By reaching the semi-finals, Djokovic will return to No. 1 unless Rafael Nadal wins his ninth Roland Garros title.

Second seed and 2012 runner-up Djokovic defeated eighth seed Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-4 on Tuesday for a place in the semi-finals against No. 18 seed Ernests Gulbis. Djokovic has a 4-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Gulbis, who beat No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych in straight sets on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

"He's been playing really well," Djokovic said of Gulbis. "He's confident. But again, I like my chances because I have had now couple of great weeks on the clay courts from Rome to now last ten days here in Roland Garros."

Djokovic, 27, has lost one set – versus Marin Cilic in the third round – en route to his 22nd Grand Slam championship semi-final (and his sixth on Parisian clay). He is on a 10-match winning streak.

Watch Djokovic vs. Raonic Highlights (Courtesy: French Tennis Federation)

Djokovic struck first at 6-5 in the first set, hitting a backhand winner down the line for a set point opportunity – which represented his third break point chance. Raonic was drawn to the net, but Djokovic hit a perfectly weighted backhand return to Raonic's feet, resulting in a volley into the net. It handed Djokovic the 50-minute opener.

Neither player had any opportunity to break in the 48-minute second set, which was decided on a tie-break. From 3/4, Djokovic won three straight points and took a two sets to love lead with a kick-serve that Raonic sent into the tramlines. Djokovic had lost just six of his service points.

Under mounting pressure, Raonic buckled as Djokovic played with great confidence to win the first four games. Raonic broke back to 30 for 3-5, but Djokovic was not to be denied his 29th match win of the season, which includes three titles. 

"Even though it was a straight set win, few points here and there kind of decided the winner," said Djokovic. "That's what I was expecting. I knew that he's going to serve and I'm not going to have many opportunities, but when I do have them, I should use them. I have done well."

Three weeks ago, Djokovic beat Raonic 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals.

Djokovic hit 39 winners and committed 19 unforced errors for victory in two hours and 22 minutes. Raonic fired down 21 aces, but won just 29 per cent of his second serves.

"He was not letting me dictate as much as I was able to in Rome," said Raonic. "He was opening up a little bit more with his backhand down the line, where I felt I put more pressure on him in Rome where he wasn't able to use that as much. I think that's where I was struggling to get on top of him. My serve kept it close for most of those moments."

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