Last time they met, it was a very anticipated round-of-16 match at the U.S. Open, which had the fans of the best ranked of the two trembling and which ended up by a comprehensive beat down. In fact, every time the draw made them square off became an event. In the Rakuten Open semi-finals, it will be the fifth time already that Andy Murray is set to face Milos Raonic.
Set to, as their first meeting, in Miami, did not take place when Raonic was forced to withdraw due to an injury, and the same happened in Toronto, when Murray did the same after having hurt his knee in his previous match. They split the other two matches, Raonic defeating Murray in Barcelona for his first (and so far only) career top 5 win, and the Scotsman giving his young opponent a tennis clinic in Flushing Meadows, en route to his first Grand Slam title.
In the Tokyo quarter-finals, Raonic fired 24 aces and conceded no break points to overcome third seed Janko Tipsarevic, 6-7(5) 6-2 7-6(7), in 2:43. That second set was the first time either player broke his opponent in two meetings this season, and both breaks went the way of the Canadian Cannon. It is Raonic’s first semi-final appearance in a tournament since Barcelona.
As for Murray, he smothered a fight back from Stanislas Wawrinka to prevail, 6-2 3-6 6-2, in 2:01, to take another step towards the defence of the title won last year.
Murray and Raonic will play the first semi-final in Tokyo, at 23:00 ET, and just like the other matches between the two players, it is a highly anticipated encounter, on a surface where the conditions favour the powerful serve of the Canadian, but also where the Brit’s game can express itself at its best. If Raonic has, as we may well think, learned his lessons from their U.S. Open match, it should be quite open.
Nishikori causes the upset
Kei Nishikori has been playing fantastic tennis all season, and especially in the last two weeks. Coming short against Juan Mónaco in the semi-finals last week in Kuala Lumpur, he recovered well to reach the quarter-finals in Tokyo, where he was meeting n° 2 seed Tomas Berdych. The Czech, who opted for Tokyo rather than defending his title in Beijing, was the favourite, and not only by ranking, to win this match.
It was counting without an inspired Nishikori, who was firing from all angles and to whose game Berdych never really had an answer, despite breaking him twice in the match. Playing in spite of a knee injury, Nishikori pulled the upset, 7-5 6-4, to become the first Japanese to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
On Saturday, Nishikori will face Marcos Baghdatis who, after defeating Juan Mónaco in the round-of-16, had no trouble overcoming qualifier Dmitry Tursunov, 6-2 6-4, to reach his first semi-final since Zagreb at the beginning of February. Baghdatis will try to reach his first final since Kuala Lumpur last year.
We know that Marcos Baghdatis is a very talented player, with an aggressive and often unpredictable game which keeps his opponents on their toes, and a lot of fire power in his strokes, but which, for quite a while, has more often than not turned in his own disfavour. This should be a very entertaining match, and if Nishikori is the favourite to reach the final, I wouldn’t rule out the chances of the Cypriot.
The two seeds remaining advance in Beijing
At the China Open, there were only two seeds remaining in a draw that brought its load of surprises from the first day on. For both Novak djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the quarter-finals went without much trouble.
Tsonga easily defeated Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3 6-2, to reach the semi-finals, where he will face Feliciano López, who battled for nearly two and a half hours to edge Sam Querrey, 4-6 6-4 6-4.
As for Djokovic, he was simply too much for Jürgen Melzer, whom he defeated 6-1 6-2, in 53 minutes.
In the semi-finals, Djokovic will be opposed to Florian Mayer, who ended the dream run of 22-year-old Chinese Zhang Ze, 6-3 6-4.
The first semi-final match, Tsonga vs López, will start at 0:30 ET, whereas the second match will be at 7:30 ET on Saturday morning.
In the doubles, the nice run of the alternate team of Carlos Berlocq and Denis Istomin continued, as they topped Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, 6-2 7-6(6), to reach the semi-finals.