MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Canadian Milos Raonic served and volleyed with robotic precision to bundle Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas out of the Australian Open with a 7-5 6-4 7-6(2) victory in the third round on Friday.
Raonic, who reached the last four at Melbourne Park in 2016 and the Wimbledon final the same year, hit 19 aces and 55 winners and did not give ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas a single breakpoint opportunity in the match.
On a day that witnessed 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams and defending champion Naomi Osaka exit the women’s draw, the men’s side also lost Spanish ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who fell to Marin Cilic after a marathon 6-7(3) 6-4 6-0 5-7 6-3 match.
Cilic, who won the 2014 U.S. Open and reached the final at Melbourne Park in 2018, also had a five-set win in his previous round against Frenchman Benoit Paire but the Croatian had no doubt he will fully recover before facing Raonic.
Tsitsipas was broken once in each of the first and second sets before Raonic claimed the tiebreak comfortably and sealed their maiden meeting with a forehand crosscourt winner.
“I knew it was going to be important that I play well but I play consistently well throughout the match,” Raonic said. “I wasn’t having any fluctuations. I think that was how I was going to create my opportunities, and it worked out well.
“I know I’m not necessarily easy to play, especially if I serve well, if I do my things well, if I can find a way to move forward. There are not many guys necessarily that play the way I do, and I can find an efficiency in it.”
Tsitsipas, who last year defeated Roger Federer on his way to the last four, said it was “monotonic” and sometimes “boring” to take on a big-server like Raonic.
“He’s playing forehands from all over the court, and you don’t really know where you should stand exactly, because he’s just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands,” Tsitsipas said. “Serve is great, one of the best in the game.
“I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. I felt like I was slow. My anticipation was not there.”
Melbourne’s large Greek community was once again out in full force at the Margaret Court Arena to support Tsitsipas but even their constant chants of “Stefanos Tsitsipas, ole, ole, ole” was not enough to lift the Athens-born player.
Play was held up briefly due to Greek fans singing just outside one of the entry doors and the umpire had to repeatedly urge security officials to close the door to allow Raonic to continue serving.
But Raonic maintained a Zen-like focus amid all the cacophony and went about his job like a machine.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Toby Davis and Nick Macfie)