Milos Raonic held his nerve despite a spirited comeback by fourth seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka on Monday at the Australian Open.
Raonic, the No. 13 seed, hit 82 winners, including 24 aces, to beat Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena in three hours and 44 minutes. It was his first Top 10 win at a Grand Slam championship since the 2011 Australian Open (d. No. 10 Youzhny).
Now 8-0 on the 2016 ATP World Tour season, the Canadian has now beaten the Swiss No. 1 and 2, including Roger Federer in this month’s Brisbane final. Raonic, who had never beaten Wawrinka in their four previous meetings, will next face Gael Monfils in his second successive quarter-final at Melbourne Park.
“I’m very happy with the way I played, the way I competed, the way I turned things around after sort of having the momentum against me going into the fifth [set],” said Raonic. “I’m happy [with] the situation I’ve put myself in. At the same time, as happy as I am, my mind’s already on what’s the process for my next challenge.
“I was volleying the first volley really well. I was finishing the points. I was putting pressure on him. I was giving him a situation maybe that he wasn’t too comfortable in.”
Raonic got off to a flying start, revealing a new wrinkle to his game with a persistent net approach that kept Wawrinka on the back foot. The hyper-aggressive Canadian crashed the net with alacrity in the early stages, claiming 17 of 25 such points in the first and second sets. Raonic also had Wawrinka’s serve under pressure, putting 75 per cent of returns in play. He would break for 5-4 in the first set and three more times in the second, reeling off six of seven games from 0-2 down to take a commanding two-set lead.
But Wawrinka would not go quietly. They remained on serve until 5-all in the third, when Raonic’s net game began to flicker. Wawrinka rifled a return winner at an approaching Raonic’s feet, followed by a pair of forehand and backhand passing shots that caught the Canadian out of position at the net. He would break for 6-5.
Raonic held firm in the fourth-set opener, saving two break points in a 20-point game. But Wawrinka gained a stronger hold by breaking to 30 in the fifth game and went on to save three break points in a 15-point game for a 5-3 advantage.
In a serve-dominated deciding set, Raonic opened up a 4-2 lead. Wawrinka, who struggled for service consistency, saved one match point at 3-5, Ad Out. But it was a stay of execution, as Raonic closed out to love in the next game. Drawing Wawrinka to the net with a drop shot, the match ended with a simple volley into an open court. Raonic won 54 of 83 (65%) points at the net overall and is now 6-4 lifetime in fifth sets.