Rampant Djokovic sets up Raonic quarterfinal

Agence France-Presse
Rampant Djokovic sets up Raonic quarterfinal
Novak Djokovic zeroes in on an eighth Australian Open title as he tangles with Milos Raonic, who he has beaten in all the 9 times they faced

MELBOURNE, Australia – Defending champion Novak Djokovic swept past Diego Schwartzman and into an Australian Open quarterfinal with Milos Raonic as he zeroes in on an eighth Melbourne Park title.

The rampant Serbian No. 2 seed was on another level against the 14th seed Argentine, cruising to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win on Sunday, January 26, at the Rod Laver Arena for an 11th appearance in the last 8. 

Raonic is his next hurdle and the Canadian has also been in fine touch. He has yet to drop a set, blasting past fellow former world No. 3 Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

“Milos is one of the tallest, strongest players on tour and has one of the biggest serves,” said Djokovic, who is into his 46th Grand Slam quarterfinal, second only to Roger Federer’s 57. 

“I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net. One key element will be how well I’m returning.”

The Serb has met 32nd seed Raonic 9 times and won them all.

But the Canadian is back to full fitness after years of injury struggles and his powerful serve could cause problems. So far, he has served 59 games and won them all.

Asked what he needs to do to beat Djokovic, he replied:  “I think I’m going to have to hit more than 35 aces,” referring to the number he pumped past 2018 finalist Cilic. 

“I think we play quite opposite from each other, and he’s done a good job in the past neutralising my serve,” he added of the Serb. 

“So I have really got to focus on my things well and be the one dictating.”

The Australian Open is Raonic’s favorite Slam.

He reached the semifinals in 2016, when he lost to Andy Murray, and the quarters on 3 other occasions, including last year.

His career, though, has been plagued by injuries, with operations over the years for hip, foot, and wrist problems. He has also struggled with back, ankle, calf, and knee issues.

Raonic said it felt “pretty damn good” to finally be injury free.

Quality player

While Djokovic had won all 3 of his past meetings against Schwartzman, the Argentine had caused him problems previously and he needed to come from two sets down at Roland Garros in 2017 to win.

Despite thism the writing was on the wall – the Argentine had never beaten a top 5 player in 21 clashes and it wasn’t about to change Sunday.

They went game for game in the opening set until Djokovic pounced, working a break point to get the crucial edge and go 5-3 in front.

Sensing a quick victory, he stormed to a 3-0 lead in the following set, breaking twice.

But Schwartzman is a fighter who runs and scraps for every ball and he pulled back a break, only for the world No. 2 to calmly serve out the set.

The scurrying Schwartzman is renowned as one of the fastest men around court and did all he could to claw back into the match.

However, Djokovic unloaded searing groundstrokes and pinpoint serves that gave Raonic few chances and the end quickly came.

“Diego is a quality player and I knew if I gave him tim,  he could do a lot of damage from the back of the court,” said Djokovic.

The Serb is seeking to become only the third man to win 8 or more titles at the same Grand Slam after Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“I tried to mix it up a bit, bringing him from the back of the court with the slice.” – Rappler.com

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