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Australian Open 2017: Rafael Nadal advances to his first Slam semi-final in three years

Raonic fluffed a number of crucial occasions, with Nadal looking to be in brilliant form.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning match point in his quarterfinal match against Milos Raonic of Canada on day 10 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Game, set, match! The Man from Manacor is looking menacing this Australian Open

Rafael Nadal advanced to his first Slam semi-final in three years when he beat the third seed Milos Raonic, 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday. The last time that the 14-time Major winner Rafa was in the last-four of a Major was at the 2014 French Open which is his last Slam title.

The ninth seed will meet the 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the summit clash.

Raonic beat Nadal in last meeting

The two met just over two weeks back in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International where the Canadian came back from a set and break down to win in three pulsating sets. Rafa was expected to have done his homework after that loss and he came fully prepared to take on Raonic in this encounter.

Standing closer to the baseline, he returned the ball early and with ferocity that had been missing from his racquet of late. Being a competent volleyer, the ninth seed took every opportunity to attack the net with authority and kept on putting the Canadian out of his comfort zone.

Rafa put pressure early on and forced a deuce in the very first game of the match that told the story of the first set. The third seed looked very unsure of his strategy in the face of the Nadal onslaught.

The southpaw earned his first break point in the sixth game but Rafa's return clipped the tape and rolled over to his side of the court. The 2009 champion did not have to wait long for his next chance which presented itself in Raonic’s very next service game. 

The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up miscued an overhead on break point and Rafa drew first blood to go 4-3 up. There was no stutter from the former World No. 1 for the rest of the set and he bagged the opener, 6-4.

Raonic fluffs set points in Set 2

Raonic looked to have freed up in the initial stages of the second set, compelling Rafa on the backfoot. The Spaniard’s sparkling defence showed up and he saved a break point to wriggle his way out of a lengthy service game for 1-1.

The third seed sought a medical time-out after the fifth game to treat his hamstring following which the two continued on serve.

It was in the tenth game that things took a dramatic turn. Raonic turned on the heat on the Nadal serve as his highly-accomplished rival looked slightly vulnerable. The Canadian eked out two break points both of which were saved by the ninth seed with two accurate serves. Raonic had another chance to break only to see it getting obliterated by a ferocious Nadal down-the-line forehand.

Rafa got out of jail in that game and the set headed to a tie-break.

Raonic lifted his game by several notches in the seventh point to come up with a stunning putaway at the net and go a mini-break up. He could not hold on to his advantage for a long time as Nadal produced a brilliant pass to erase it.

The Canadian oscillated between the magnificent and the mundane since then. After making a spectacular lob to earn another mini-break, he double-faulted on set point to put the breaker back to 6-6.

Raonic then fluffed another set point with a forehand miss and immediately saw Rafa capitalise on it. Raonic cracked with yet another forehand error on set point and Nadal went two sets up by grabbing the second, 7-6(7).

There was no let-up in Rafa's intensity in the third set and he tried to make his first move with Milos serving at 2-3. Even though he made it a deuce game, he failed to make the breakthrough.

Raonic finally blinked in the tenth game and went down 0-40 on his serve with Rafa upping the pace of the match. The Spaniard progressed to the semi-finals when Raonic's volley landed on his side of the court.

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