© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Milos Raonic celebrates his comeback victory over Rafael Nadal on Friday in Brisbane.

Raonic Beats Nadal In Brisbane, Dimitrov Next Up

The Canadian beats Nadal for the first time in almost two years

Defending champion Milos Raonic remains on course to reach the final of the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp for the third straight year. While the Canadian says that he wants to come forward more in 2017, it was his serve and big forehand that earned him a comeback win over Rafael Nadal on Friday night.

World No. 3 Raonic recorded only his second victory over Nadal in eight meetings with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in two hours and 21 minutes. The Canadian will now face seventh seed and 2013 finalist Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals on Saturday.

“I played very well [and] I did a lot of very good things,” said Raonic. “I obviously served well… I started creating opportunities. I was dictating, which wasn't necessarily the case at the beginning."

After breaking Nadal for the first time for a 5-3 lead in the second set, Raonic closed it out emphatically with three straight aces and then a crushing forehand winner for a love hold. Raonic then struck a monster forehand winner down the line to break in the first game of the deciding set, and ended the match with a love hold. He hit 23 aces and won 81 per cent of his first service points overall.

The 30-year-old Nadal had been trying to capture his first ATP World Tour hard-court title since the 2014 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. His last win over a player in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings was against Kei Nishikori in April 2016 in the Barcelona Open BancSabadell final.

Earlier in the day, Dimitrov saved 13 of the 14 break points he faced to win a battle of the single-handed backhands over Dominic Thiem, the fourth seed, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes.

Dimitrov immediately opened up a 3-0 lead and closed out the 48-minute opener after a 16-point game on his fifth set point opportunity. Thiem broke in the 10th game of the second set, while two service breaks in decider helped World No. 17 Dimitrov to his first Top 10 win since his run to the Beijing final in October 2016.

“It was a good match, I expected to play a good match,” Dimitrov told ATPWorldTour.com. “Thiem is one of the hottest contenders at any tournament, so I’m happy to get a Top 10 win. I was coming in a lot in the first set, but then got off my patterns a little bit. I need to serve better on first serve.”

Dimitrov has a 2-1 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Raonic.

”It's a difficult match-up,” said Raonic. “(Dimitrov’s) capable of so much. He can do so many great things. It's really about keeping a level head throughout the match, keeping a flat line, and hoping that that averages out better than what he brings. I'm doing things well. I'm obviously playing significantly better today than I did in my first round, and hopefully I can continue to improve each and every match I play.”

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