Canada’s Milos Raonic qualified for the semifinals of the ATP Finals with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Dominic Thiem on Thursday.
Raonic fired 14 aces in the match to advance to the semifinals of the marquee tennis event for the first time in his career.
The fourth-ranked player from Thornhill, Ont., never faced break point, and converted two of six break opportunities against his eighth-ranked Austrian opponent.
Raonic finished 2-1 in round-robin play and second in the Ivan Lendl group. He’ll play the winner of the John McEnroe group, which world No. 1 Andy Murray currently leads with a 2-0 record.
Raonic, who reached the Wimbledon final this year but lost to Murray, ended up with 14 aces and 31 winners against Thiem.
“I stepped up when I had an opportunity in the tiebreak. I stepped up at the beginning of the second set and the end of it,” Raonic said. “There’s a lot definitely to be proud of, playing under that kind of pressure.”
Raonic also said he got some tips this week from John McEnroe, who worked with the Canadian during the grass-court season.
“He shares a lot of wisdom with me, a lot of his opinions. I respect that,” Raonic said. “It was a big plus to have him there.”
Murray potentially awaits
Raonic will next meet Murray, the man he was supposed to play in the last four in Paris, for a place in the final providing the Briton beats Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Friday.
“I’ve played Andy many times this year,” Raonic told reporters. “I haven’t gotten the better of him.”
“The one thing I might have is how much he has on his shoulders right now, a lot of consecutive matches, and what he’s playing for,” he added in reference to Murray bidding to end the year as world No. 1.
“I have to try to do my best to accentuate that as much as possible in my own favour so I can really get the most out of myself and hopefully be able to get on top of him for once this year.”
Murray has an 8-3 win-loss record against Raonic who has been beaten in all their five encounters this season.
The Canadian also has a target to aim for as he looks to climb from fourth to third in the rankings.
“It’s very big for me. I had a very big goal of wanting to win my first slam this year. I came up short on that,” Raonic said.
“That was what I had for myself as the biggest motivator after the U.S. Open.”
Djokovic still undefeated
Earlier, No. 2 Novak Djokovic downed David Goffin 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the semis and finish group play undefeated for the fourth time in the past five years.
Djokovic is playing for a lot more than just a record-tying sixth title at the ATP finals. The second-ranked Serb is also looking to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
But there are some more matches to play before the 12-time Grand Slam champion can be assured of finishing another season as the top-ranked player.
“Everything has been going … in a positive direction. I’ve been playing better and better as I proceed in the tournament,” Djokovic said.
Murray took over the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic this month at the Paris Masters. But if Djokovic does better than Murray this weekend at the ATP finals, he will jump back ahead and finish the season on top for the third straight season and the fifth time in six years.
“That’s something you wish for, to have everything in your hands, not to depend on other players,” Djokovic said. “In this particular case, I’m glad it’s like that.”
Serb can make history
Djokovic is a five-time champion at the eight-man finals. He has won 21 of his last 22 matches at the O2 since 2012, including four straight titles.
He also won the title in 2008, when the tournament was in Shanghai, so another victory on Sunday will put him even with Roger Federer as six-time champions.