Djokovic digs deep to re­pel Raonic on­slaught

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

IT has been miss­ing for a while but No­vak Djokovic re­dis­cov­ered his war­rior spirit to tame Canada’s Mi­los Raonic 7-6 (6), 76 (5) in a riv­et­ting duel and guar­an­tee progress from his group at the ATP World Tour Fi­nals in Lon­don yes­ter­day.

The 29-year-old Serb’s re­cent malaise has cost him the world No. 1 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 No. 4 Raonic threw the kitchen sink at the Serb for two hours and 14 min­utes, strik­ing 42 win­ners and 14 aces but Djokovic, aim­ing for a fifth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle at the year-en­der, was equal to ev­ery­thing – just.

Hav­ing edged a high-in­ten­sity first-set when Raonic dou­ble­faulted 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 220kph, stormed back to rock Djokovic on his heels and came within a missed fore­hand of ex­tend­ing the match into a de­cider.

But Djokovic (pix) 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.

“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 No. 2 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.”

Raonic, who won 83 points to Djokovic’s 85, said: “I could have won it, I gave my­self the chances... I did a lot of good things. A lot of things to be proud of.” – Reuters

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