Raonic has Almagro's number

Raonic has Almagro's number

Canadian storms into final with straight-set win to set up clash with Tipsarevic

A rampaging Milos Raonic aced out Nicolas Almagro to storm in to the Chennai Open final with a straight-set victory over the second seed here at the Nungambakkam Stadium on Saturday.

focussed Canadian Milos Raonic gets ready to serve during his semifinal match against Spaniard Nicolas Almagro on Saturday. AFP

Almagro, who had struggled to put away Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita in Friday’s quarterfinal, was put to shade by his younger and more energetic adversary during a 4-6, 4-6 defeat that lasted 72 minutes. Raonic will run into top seed Janko Tipsarevic for the top prize in Sunday’s final, after the Serbian outclassed another Japanese qualifier Go Soeda 6-1, 6-4 in the second semifinal. Soeda, a surprise last-eight winner over defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka, couldn’t replicate that performance, losing in an hour and 19 minutes.

This is the first time that Tipsarevic has made it to the summit clash of India’s only ATP event in his four straight attempts. He had fallen in the semifinals in the last two years and faces a monumental challenge in the form of Raonic to conquer the peak.

‘Vamos,’ the Spanish equivalent of come-on, was frequently heard at the Centre Court as a sizeable number of spectators tried to egg on Almagro. The World No 10 Spaniard, however, needed much more than just the backing of the crowd on the day to stop Raonic. It was not that Almagro played below his potential — his opponent was playing at a different level.

“There was nothing wrong with my game,” Almagro said later. “I am happy with the way I played today, but he (Raonic) played really well and completely deserved to win. With that kind of serve, you will give yourself many chances to win a match,” he observed.

Raonic’s serve has become a kind of rage here. The 21-year-old, standing tall, buried his higher-ranked opponent in an avalanche of aces (17 in all spread over two sets) which also helped him wriggle him out of tricky situations on a couple of occasions.

Raonic had a first chance of break at 30/40 in the fifth game after he produced a forehand winner following two backhand errors by Almagro. But the Canadian hit a forehand long and Almagro went on to hold the serve. In the seventh game, however, Raonic didn’t let go the opportunity when he had three break points.
Though Almagro saved two break points, the World No 31 came up with a big forehand down the line to take a 4-3 lead. The fourth seed had a chance to wrap up the set in the ninth game when he had a break point but his Spanish rival managed to take it to the 10th game.

Raonic admitted his big serves put his opponents on the back foot straightaway. “Not just my serves, I think my forehands as well. They will think twice to attack me and that dilemma puts them under pressure,” he remarked.

The second set too was fought equally well and went on serve till the eighth game after which Raonic surged ahead. A netted backhand slice by Almagro was followed up by forehand winner on a weak second serve as the ATP Newcomer of the Year held two break points, a backhand error at this stage handing Raonic the crucial break. Serving for the set, Raonic conceded two break points but he saved them with an ace and a rare double-fisted backhand winner. Almagro then held the advantage but, as was often the case on the day, the Montenegro-born player sent down three big serves, including two aces, to storm into the title round.

Results (singles semifinals, prefix denotes seeding): 4-Milos Raonic (Can) bt 2-Nicolas Almagro (Esp) 6-4, 6-4; 1-Janko Tipsarevic (Ser) bt Go Soeda (Jap) 6-1, 6-4.

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