There not just good tennis in Doha tomorrow, it’s also happening in Australia where in Brisbane we have a very solid men’s semifinal line-up.
Much earlier today, defending champion Milos Raonic knocked out Rafael Nadal from a set down 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a showdown with Grigor Dimitrov, who was a 3-set winner over Dominic Thiem.
So far I’ve only been able to watch the first set of Nadal-Raonic on tape, and Rafa looked good early. Breaking Raonic early and getting the upper hand by moving the big man around the court. His shots looked good, movement was fine, serve seemd to be decent.
But apparently Rafa lost that edge toward the end of the second. Then was broken early in the third and against a massive server like Raonic, who hit 23 aces on the day, that’s that.
“I think I had 10 minutes that was very hard, and playing against a player like him, that’s terrible,” Nadal said. “He played aggressive, he played great, he returned — his return on my serve during that games had been very, very aggressive, and the serve was huge, no?
“I tried to go inside a couple of times, maybe returning to behind the baseline, but I was not watching clear way to return. Well, I lost against third of the world. Very close match. I had been playing six matches already this year. That’s positive for me, winning five, losing the sixth.”
So true, no shame in Nadal losing to Milos. But once Milos gets that serve thumping he becomes awfully hard to beat – remember this guy won Brisbane last year over Roger and nearly beat Murray in Australia if not for a thigh injury.
“I played very well. I did a lot of very good things,” the Canadian said. “Obviously served well. I haven’t seen the numbers now, but I believe that I was quite low on first-serve percentage in that first set. I think that improved after. I’m not exactly sure, but that’s how it felt.
“I started creating opportunities. Other than, I believe, the last two of his service games, every single service game in that third set I had Love-15 or Love-30. So I was creating stuff. I was dictating, which wasn’t necessarily the case at the beginning.”
Last year, Raonic beat Federer after the Swiss took his coach, Ivan Ljubicic. Now Raonic does to Nadal who is under Carlos Moya. Weird, right?
Up next for Raonic is Dimitrov who has beaten Milos two of three times. But I’ll go with the hot hand and the big serve of Milos.
“It’s a difficult matchup,” Raonic said of facing the Bulgarian. “He’s capable of so much. He can do so many great things. It’s really about keeping a level head throughout the match, keeping a flat line, and hoping that that averages out better than what he brings.
“I’m doing things well. I’m obviously playing significantly better today than I did in my first round, and hopefully I can continue to improve each and every match I play.”
In the other semifinal, Stan Wawrinka meets Kei Nishikori in a rematch of their US Open semifinal. Stan leads 4-3 having alternated wins their last six matches, and wouldn’t you know it after London it is Stan’s turn to win. So I like him here.
Though Nishikori rolled today past Jordan Thompson 6-1, 6-1 while Wawrinka had a tighter affair against Brit Kyle Edmund 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4.
“I think in general I’m feeling good,” Warwinka said. “Was a tough match, for sure, today. Long match. Quite humid, also. Also tough physically. But, in general, I think I’m feeling good and ready.
“I know it’s going to be a tough match. We always play a really tough match against Kei. I beat him US Open. I lost World Tour Final quite easy. Also lost in Toronto tough semifinal. We played each other few times already last few months, so it’s going to be interesting to see. We practiced here this week. I’m sure it’s going to be a good match.”
The women’s final pits US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova against Alize Cornet.
While the big name men all had good runs this first week, the WTA saw a lot of carnage at the top already. Not sure what that means, but we’ll find out.
BRISBANE SATURDAY SCHEDULE
PAT RAFTER ARENA start 11:30 am
ATP – [WC] T. Kokkinakis (AUS) / J. Thompson (AUS) vs  D. Nestor (CAN) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Not Before 12:30 pm
ATP –  K. Nishikori (JPN) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP –  M. Raonic (CAN) vs  G. Dimitrov (BUL)
WTA –  K. Pliskova (CZE) vs A. Cornet (FRA)
WTA –  B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / S. Mirza (IND) vs  E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)
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