The Canadian star defeated another former World No. 3, Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne Park. This marks Raonic’s 10th trip to the last eight of a Grand Slam.
“It feels pretty damn good, I’ve got to say,” Raonic said on court after his win. “I can’t complain about it and I’m just happy with how things are going. I’m happy I have another chance to play in two days here and it’s been an exciting tournament for me so far, but hopefully there are more exciting things ahead.”
The 29-year-old is into the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the fifth time, and for the second year in a row after putting on display a clinical serving performance, crushing 35 aces and winning all of his service games in a two-hour, 19-minute victory. Raonic will try to reach his second Australian Open semi-final when he plays seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman.
“I think I’m going to have to hit more than 35 aces,” Raonic said.
In the early going, Cilic appeared the sharper player, taking control early in rallies and being quick to pounce on every opportunity to take a big cut at a ball. But Raonic saved an early break point with a big serve, and once it got to crunch time in the opener, the tone of the match changed.
Suddenly Cilic, who took five sets to beat both No. 21 seed Benoit Paire and ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the second and third round, respectively, began to get tight. The forehands that were landing at the start of the match were being pushed into the net. And with the way the Canadian was serving, that was the only opening he needed.
Raonic hit a backhand down the line to force an error from Cilic, breaking for the first set. From there, he never seemed out of control of the match. Raonic crushed a backhand return winner on the full stretch to break for a 2-0 lead in the second set, and he was off to the races.
The eight-time ATP Tour champion won 79 per cent of his first-serve points and struck 55 total winners to only 23 unforced errors. And whenever Cilic sniffed an opportunity, Raonic was quick to erase it.
At the end of the third set, Cilic earned two set points out of nowhere on Raonic’s serve. But the Canadian quickly dispatched those chances with three massive serves. And again, Cilic tightened up, making errors to give Raonic the decisive break. Fittingly, the No. 32 seed ended the match on an ace.
Raonic levelled his ATP Head2Head series with Cilic at 2-2.