Milos Raonic continues to impress right before our eyes. Earlier today the big-serving Canadian continued his evolution blasting past Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6 in the quarterfinals at Barcelona.
Roanic survived a hiccup serving for it in the second but eventually took care of Murray via a tiebreaker to earn the first of what will be many Top 5 victories.
“It’s very, very difficult and a big plus in confidence for me,” said Raonic. “Clay’s not his best surface, but he consistently does well on it. Last year he reached the semi-finals at the French Open, Monte-Carlo and Rome, so he can play really well on it. For me, it was a big win, regardless of the surface.”
As I’ve said before, it’s not if but when Raonic will reach Top 5, and I still think the 21-year-old can make a final weekend at a Slam this year and possibly win one next. He’s that good.
Before then, he’ll have to deal with David Ferrer in another tough one tomorrow. Ferrer saved 3 matchpoints in escaping his countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. For all his clay prowess, Ferrer has struggled on his favorite surface this month. So I give Raonic, who trains in Barcelona under Spanish coach Galo Blanco, a real chance, especially if he stays aggressive and attacks David. But Ferrer really needs this win to get his clay game back on track.
The second semifinal will be all Spanish as Rafael Nadal takes on Fernando Verdasco. Nadal upped his Barcelona win streak to 31 today by crushing Janko Tipsarevic 6-2, 6-2. The win was also Nadal’s 19th straight on his favorite surface and this season he hasn’t dropped a single set on the clay!
“I have a lot of confidence from my past results here but it doesn’t mean it will continue that way,” Nadal said. “Each match is different. I go on court and try my best in every moment and hope it goes well for me.”
Nadal has owned his fellow lefty Verdasco winning all 12 of their meetings including 11-0 in sets on clay.
Verdasco, though, is quietly having a decent year and he advanced after Kei Nishikori suffered another injury (his ab) early in the first set of their encounter.
(Nishikori and Raonic really seem to get injured an awful lot! Too bad!)
As for Murray, there’s still plenty of time to get his game into gear on the clay. But he’s certainly not striking fear in his opposition, and he should have beaten Raonic today on the clay.
“I was not very happy with my backhand today,” Murray admitted. “Although I lost today, it was a good experience to play in Barcelona.”
Reaching the quarterfinals at tournaments is a good experience? I wonder if new coach Ivan Lendl agrees with that.
On the women’s tour, the star-studded WTA Stuttgart stop features the Top 4 women in the world reaching the semifinal state at a tournament for the first time since 2009 Wimbledon. World No. 1 (former?) friends Victoria Azarenka meets Agnieszka Radwanska then Maria Sharapova collides with fellow Wimbledon queen Petra Kvitova.
“On the men’s side it’s normal to have the Top 4 in the semis,” Kvitova said. “It’s great for the tournament, the sponsors and the people. It has been a long time since the last time, but hopefully it will happen in more tournaments soon.”
Of the four only Kvitova won in straight sets today beating Angelique Kerber. Sharapova and Azarenka both won 7-5 in the third over Sam Stosur and Mona Barthel, respectively. Radwanska also needed three to turn away French Open champ Li Na.
Tennis Channel has live coverage of Stuttgart at 8am ET. Barcelona will air on tape delay starting at 2:30pm ET followed by the Bucharest semifinals featuring Gilles Simon.
SATURDAY BARCELONA SCHEDULE
PISTA CENTRAL start 1:30 pm
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs  M Raonic (CAN)
Not Before 4:00 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  F Verdasco (ESP)
 O Marach (AUT) / A Peya (AUT) vs M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP)
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