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Melbourne | Raonic blasts his way to Djokovic meeting

Melbourne | Raonic blasts his way to Djokovic meeting

It will be an interesting quarter-final in the bottom half of the Australian Open following Milos Raonic and Novak Djokovic’s progress into the last eight, the first pair to reach that stage this year.

I'm happy I have another chance. It's been an exciting tournament for me so far and hopefully there's more exciting times ahead. Milos Raonic

The contrast in styles, with Raonic’s bazooka like serves countered by Djokovic’s renown return of serve, could well prove the key.

Raonic has yet to drop a set while Djokovic lost one to Jan-Lennart Struff in the opening round but, apart from that, has hardly been tested.

Against the 2018 finalist Marin Cilic in the last 16, Raonic the 32nd seed, blasted 35 aces past a lacklustre Croatian to record a 6-4 6-3 7-5 victory on the Margaret Court Arena while Djokovic, seeded 2, crushed the diminutive albeit feisty 14th seed from Argentina, Diego Schwartzman, 6-3 6-4 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

So when asked what he needs to do to beat Djokovic, Raonic offered: “I think I’m going to have to hit more than 35 aces!

“I think we play quite opposite from each other, and he’s done a good job in the past neutralising my serve. So I have really got to focus on my things well and be the one dictating.”

The statistics over the years favour the Serb who has beaten the Canadian on the 9 previous occasions they have met.

However, he will be facing a rejuvenated opponent who has finally shed all the injury problems which have hampered his career over the last few years, with operations to deal with hip, foot and wrist problems. He has also struggled with back, ankle, calf and knee issues and is delighted to be injury free for once declaring he felt “pretty damn good”.

“Milos is one of the tallest, strongest players on tour and has one of the biggest serves,” commented Djokovic after reaching his 46th Grand Slam quarter-final en route to what he hopes will be his eighth Aussie title.

“I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net. One key element will be how well I’m returning.”

Meanwhile Raonic, who has yet to be broken this week, is playing in his favourite leg of the grand slam where he reached the semi-finals in 2016 and made the last eight on three other occasions, including last year. He is having a good tournament so far which included a straight sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world number six.

Commenting on his last match, the big Canadian said: “It was a rollercoaster. He played better than me in the first set and I was lucky to get through. I’m just happy to be out here, feeling good and playing well.

“I’m happy I have another chance. It’s been an exciting tournament for me so far and hopefully there’s more exciting times ahead.”

Novak Djokovic shakes hands with Diego Schwartzman after his victory

Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Djokovic had never lost to Schwartzman in their three matches but had to come back from two sets down at Roland Garros in 2017 so a fourth win wasn’t a a sure-fire-thing.

Once the Serb had gained a 5-3 lead in the opening set, the result did become inevitable. Schwartzman’s renowned speed and resilience kept him in the match but the tide was set as Djokovic’s searing groundstrokes and pinpoint serving kept him ahead.

“Diego is a quality player and I knew if I gave him time he could do a lot of damage from the back of the court,” said Djokovic on conclusion of the match and refocused his sights on Raonic and that eighth title

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