Raonic fails to break Djokovic stranglehold
Novak Djokovic maintained his 100 per cent record in matches against Milos Raonic, beating the Canadian in three sets on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters.
Raonic had never gotten the better of the Serbian in eight career meetings, the pair last facing off at the ATP Finals in London in 2016.
And his unhappy run continued at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Ohio, where 10th seed Djokovic won 7-5 4-6 6-3 in two hours and 32 minutes.
The 13-time grand slam singles champion, a five-time beaten finalist in Cincinnati, will tackle Marin Cilic in the last four.
Raonic's serving started shakily as he held after almost 15 minutes, saving five break points in the process, but he sharpened things up and took a 4-3 lead in the seventh game as he found a way through Djokovic's defence.
The Canadian opted to mix up his game and approach the net more, and it was a plan that worked brilliantly. Although Djokovic battled hard, he was left smashing his racket in anger as Raonic sent down a sizzling forehand.
Djokovic soon found himself 5-3 behind but from the jaws of despair he came surging back, reeling off four successive games to move one set ahead – his athleticism around the court coming to the fore.
It looked like being the foundation for a comfortable win but Raonic was not giving up so easily and, after ending Djokovic's five-game run, he moved 3-1 ahead in the second set as his forehand again fired with unerring accuracy.
Raonic found himself serving for the set and, after a few nervy moments, he restored parity, Djokovic unable to apply enough pressure to make his rival falter.
The Canadian moved ahead in the third game of the decider, securing a break with a rasping forehand passing shot down the line.
Djokovic, though, broke straight back, before consolidating to get the set back on serve. And a decisive second break went the way of the Serbian in the eighth game when Raonic pulled a forehand rally ball into the net.
There were still some nerves for Djokovic as he sought to close it out, the former world number one falling 0-30 behind before recovering to take it on his first match point, beating Raonic at the net with a well-placed cross-court passing shot.