Djokovic digs deep to re­pel Raonic on­slaught

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: It has been miss­ing for a while but No­vak Djokovic re­dis­cov­ered his war­rior spirit to tame Canada’s Mi­los Raonic 7-6(6) 7-6(5) in a riv­et­ting duel and guar­an­tee progress from his group at the ATP World Tour Fi­nals on Tues­day.

The 29-year-old Serb’s re­cent malaise has cost him the world num­ber one rank­ing he held for 122 weeks but when backed into a cor­ner by an in­spired Raonic, he re­sponded in the bel­liger­ent man­ner that has earned him 12 grand slam ti­tles. World num­ber four Raonic threw the kitchen sink at the elas­ti­climbed Serb for two hours and 14 min­utes, strik­ing 42 win­ners and 14 aces but Djokovic, aim­ing for a fifth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle at the yearen­der, was equal to ev­ery­thing-just. Hav­ing edged a high-in­ten­sity first-set when Raonic dou­ble-faulted on set point in a tense tiebreak, Djokovic looked to have bro­ken the shack­les in the sec­ond to lead 4-2. Raonic, who di­alled up his mighty serve to speeds of 140mph, stormed back to rock Djokovic on his heels and came within a missed fore­hand of ex­tend­ing the match into a de­cider. But Djokovic pro­duced a mag­i­cal back­hand flick at 5-5 in the night’s sec­ond tiebreak, then an ace, be­fore Raonic suc­cumbed to an eighth suc­ces­sive de­feat at the hands of the Serb when his back­hand flew wide.

With two wins in the bag Djokovic, whose form has tailed off since win­ning the French Open in June, is now as­sured of a semi-fi­nal spot al­though with 200 rank­ing points up for grabs in his fi­nal group match against Gael Mon­fils he will not be let­ting up. Raonic will be favourite to beat Do­minic Thiem and reach the semis too, al­though the Aus­trian will be heart­ened by his 6-3 1-6 6-4 de­feat of fel­low debu­tant Mon­fils ear­lier. “I man­aged to hang in there men­tally and stay strong and be­lieved that the op­por­tu­ni­ties would come,” Djokovic, who needs to bet­ter Andy Mur­ray’s per­for­mance here to re­claim the num­ber one rank­ing, said.

“It could have gone ei­ther way this match. He’s such a strong player and has got fire­power. “Two tiebreaks against a big server is a great win.” De­spite hav­ing won only one set in their pre­vi­ous seven matches, Raonic be­trayed no in­fe­ri­or­ity and forced Djokovic to save three break points early on.

Wim­ble­don run­ner-up Raonic was the ag­gres­sor through­out the opener while Djokovic ab­sorbed the blows and waited to strike. Raonic did lit­tle wrong but was pun­ished for not putting away a vol­ley when lead­ing 3-2 in the tiebreak and at 5-5 Djokovic pro­duced a back­hand lob of rare qual­ity. The Cana­dian saved a set point with a bar­rage of blud­geon­ing fore­hands that cracked Djokovic’s de­fences but then self­de­struc­ted, shank­ing a fore­hand re­turn off a pow­der puff sec­ond serve be­fore of­fer­ing up a dou­ble fault. Djokovic was twice pegged back after break­ing in the sec­ond set and had Raonic con­verted the set point that came his way when Djokovic tugged a back­hand long at 5-6, the Cana­dian pow­erhouse might have taken some stop­ping. It was not to be though as Djokovic wrig­gled out of trou­ble to keep the pres­sure on Mur­ray in the race to end the year as top dog for the fifth time in six sea­sons. “I could have won it, I gave my­self the chances,” Raonic, who won 83 points to Djokovic’s 85, said. “I did a lot of good things. A lot of things to be proud of.” Ear­lier, 23-yearold Thiem with­stood a fight­back from the mer­cu­rial Mon­fils to be­come the first Aus­trian to win a match at the event since Thomas Muster in 1996.

LON­DON: Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic re­acts after tak­ing a 6-5 lead in a first set tiebreak against Canada’s Mi­los Raonic dur­ing their round robin stage men’s sin­gles match on day three of the ATP World Tour Fi­nals tennis tour­na­ment in Lon­don on Tues­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.