By Ossian Shine
LONDON (Reuters) - If at first you don't succeed... Persistence, positivity, and a Zen-like focus carried Milos Raonic past Roger Federer on Friday and into the Wimbledon final.
That and a thunderous weapons-grade serve which smashed the seven-times champion off Centre Court and denied him a record 85th singles victory here.
"I did a lot of things well," the burly Canadian powerhouse said smiling, after a 6-3 6-7(3) 4-6 7-5 6-3 win to set up a showdown with home favourite Andy Murray on Sunday.
"The attitude kept me in the match. I think that's what made the biggest difference. I was quite vocal, but I was always positive. I was always looking for a solution," he added.
Two years ago, Raonic could find no solutions as he was dismantled by Federer at the same stage here, but this was Raonic 2.0 - tougher and stronger.
And this was an older Federer: a phenomenal player but not the force he was when carrying all before him.
"He has the most decorated achievements and successes in tennis, more than anybody by a good amount at this point," sixth seed Raonic said.
"(But) you're playing who Roger is today, not who he's been the past few years. So you try to focus in on that and what you need to do, try not to spend too much time and attention thinking about him. Especially for myself, I've got to always worry about myself first."
It seemed to work.
"Obviously what happened here two years ago, I was very disappointed with. Today I sort of persevered. I was sort of plugging away. I was struggling through many parts of the match. He gave me a little opening towards the end of the fourth. I made the most of it."
Even though he thundered the tournament's fastest serve during this match - a 144 mph blur - Raonic's mental toughness was his best weapon, as he became the first Canadian man to reach the singles final here - or at any major come to that.
"Two years ago I bottled up all the difficulties I had on court and never got it out. Today I found a way to keep plugging away, keep myself in the match, then sort of turn it around.
"I was quite a lot more vocal and a lot more positive on court."
With former world number ones Carlos Moya and John McEnroe in his support camp, Raonic has no shortage of role models or advice, he just needs to convert that into grand slam success.
He lost a tight three-setter to Sunday's opponent Murray in the final of the Queen's Club tournament last month, but has no doubt he is better equipped now.
"I have a great opportunity on Sunday. I'm definitely going to be looking forward to it," Raonic said.
"It's come together nicely. There's obviously been bumps throughout this week. I've overcome a lot of different things. Those things have made me stronger.
"Now I have an even bigger toolset to sort of face that challenge."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)