Milos Raonic strikes 35 aces to reach his fifth Australian Open quarter-final in six years as former world number three Marin Cilic crashed out of the race in straight sets.
The 32nd seed proved too powerful for the unseeded Croat, winning 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 with Cilic disturbed by a back problem after battling through two gruelling five-setters en route to the fourth round.
Raonic’s reward is a last-eight clash with either seven-time winner and defending champion Novak Djokovic or feisty Argentinian Diego Schwartzman.
“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,” said Milos Raonic.
It appears the Australian Open is Raonic’s favorite Slam as he reached the semi-finals in 2016 when he lost to Andy Murray, and also made it to quarters on three other occasions, including last year.
Raonic’s career has been seriously plagued by injuries, with operations over the years for hip, foot, wrist, back, ankle, calf and knee issues. when asked about the injuries, he said it felt “pretty damn good” to finally be injury-free.
“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.”
Seeded 32, his lowest since 2011, Raonic came into the match after a smooth passage into the last 16 with three straight-sets victories, including a comfortable win over world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In contrast, 2014 US Open champion Cilic was put through two five-setters against seeded opponents, including a gritty defeat of ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The exertions didn’t help Cilic, a 2018 finalist, against a man back to full fitness.
Raonic’s power serve is one of the best in the game and he used it to good effect. It was the difference in the opening set, along with his ability to successfully get his racquet on far more returns than the Croat.
While he fired down eight aces, Cilic managed none. The Canadian also successfully sent back 76 percent of the Croat’s first serves in contrast to his opponent managing just 44 percent.
The crucial break came in game nine as Cilic lost focus, and Raonic quickly raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set. Cilic was struggling and took a medical timeout at the changeover for a lower back massage.
He returned to hold serve, but Raonic never allowed him into the match, pumping down another 13 booming aces to go two sets to one in front.
It was more of the same in set three until Cilic worked up two set points at 5-4, but once again Raonic pulled the trigger on some big serves to hold on and then immediately broke before serving out the match, fittingly with another ace.