Djokovic digs deep to repel Raonic onslaught
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