MASON, Ohio – Milos Raonic says he came to the court with a poor attitude, and it almost cost him. Fortunately for the fifth-seeded Canadian, his booming serve rescued him from a big upset.
Raonic saved a win with his 30th ace in a tense 6-7 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over American qualifier Steve Johnson on Thursday to advance to the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament.
While his serve was potent, Raonic said his poor play made the contest “complicated.”
Raonic had to win it all in a tiebreaker after striking three double-faults as he served for victory leading 5-4 in the final set. In the end, the 23-year-old won the last four points of the tiebreaker, capping the victory with another ace.
“My attitude was not great when I was first serving for the match,” said Raonic. “It added up and made life a lot tougher, it put a lot of weight on my shoulders. I was playing too negatively.
“Johnson was getting ahead a few times, but not by any great distance. I just complicated things in a lot of moments. I certainly would have rather had that final ace at 5-4 in the third.”
Raonic plays on Friday against 15th seed Fabio Fognini, who beat Lu Yen-Hsun 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. He said that his downbeat demeanour that plagued his play Thursday is a temporary problem.
“It’s a Milos problem, we’ve spoken of it many times,” he said.
“But the beauty of tennis is when you win, you can always play much better the next day.”
Raonic lost the opening set after 45 minutes. Johnson won it in a tiebreaker when the Raonic’s lob landed beyond the baseline.
In the second, Raonic began to turn the tide as he went up a break for 2-0 then levelled at a set each with a winner down the line on his second set point.
The third became hard work for Raonic due to his errors and tenacity from his American opponent. In the deciding tiebreaker, Raonic profited from Johnson’s forehand into the net to take a 6-4 and claimed the win on the next point.
Raonic, the last Canadian left in singles competition, will be playing his second Cincinnati quarter-final after 2012, when he lost to Stan Wawrinka.
In other action Top-ranked Novak Djokovic tumbled out of the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, while second-seeded Roger Federer narrowly avoided an upset in the round of 16.
Tommy Robredo beat Djokovic, 7-6 (6), 7-5 before Federer escaped with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Gael Monfils in the night session.
Andy Murray also came close to elimination but saved two match points in a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over 11th-seeded John Isner to reach the quarterfinals.
On the women’s side, top-seeded Serena Williams continued her pursuit of her first title in the Cincinnati-area tournament with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Flavia Pennetta.
Simona Halep also reached the quarterfinals, where she will meet Maria Sharapova. Agnieszka Radwanska, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic also progressed.
Robredo’s victory was the second time in his career he had beaten the world’s top-ranked player.
The first occasion was way back in 2003 when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 French Open.
“When I finish my career, and when I will be sitting at home and talking with friends, I will remember days like this,” Robredo said.
Djokovic, who has never won the Cincinnati-area event, dropped the first set after fighting back from a 6-3 deficit in the tiebreaker. Robredo took the set with an ace that Djokovic challenged. The replay showed the ball caught the slimmest sliver of the line.
Robredo was denied on two match points before completing the victory with a smash on Djokovic’s short lob.
In women’s play, top-seeded Williams broke serve in the opening game and went on to comfortably beat Pennetta 6-2, 6-2.
“I got the early break, and I didn’t let go,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to do. She tried to come back, I wanted to stay focused.”
Halep also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Lucie Safarova, but 15th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro was upset by unseeded Elina Svitolina, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Halep and Sharapova will meet in the quarterfinals — a reprise of the French Open final won by Sharapova. The fifth seed advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Jankovic also moved on with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over Sloane Stephens, and Ivanovic advanced with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Agnieszka Radwanska routed Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-1.
Caroline Wozniacki reached the quarterfinals for the second straight time and third overall with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Angelique Kerber.