Raonic sends Tsitsipas packing

  • David Cox

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas became the latest big name to go tumbling out of the Australian Open on Day 5, going down 7-5 6-4 7-6(2) at the hands of Milos Raonic.

Tsitsipas arrived in Melbourne as one of the favourites for the title having won the ATP World Tour Finals in November, but there was little he could do against an inspired Raonic, who showed why he’s still one of the most devastating servers on tour by blasting 19 aces past the young Greek.

Like Tsitsipas, the Canadian is also a former semifinalist at the Australian Open – back in 2016, the year he rose to world No.3 – but the last three seasons have seen him repeatedly trying to work his way back from various injuries.

MORE: All the results from Day 5 in Melbourne
 
However, on Friday night’s showing, Raonic appears to be somewhere close to his best. The 29-year-old is well known as a deeply analytical character with a liking for numbers and hard stats, and he could not have designed more perfect conditions for his game, his serves flying through the still early evening air at speeds of up to 223km/h.  

"It's been a while," said Raonic afterwards, when asked the last time he had played this well. "I think I have had a sense that tennis could come together if I could put the work in behind it, and I think all those pieces today came together." 

‘Stef’ as the locals on Margaret Court Arena affectionately nicknamed Tsitsipas had the majority of the crowd support, with an entire section of the stadium chanting songs in his honour at every change of ends, but there was little he could do to break the Canadian’s rhythm, failing to conjure a single break point.

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Raonic's serve was impenetrable, his groundstrokes rock-solid

From 5-5 in the first set Tsitsipas dropped his serve twice in a row, a cardinal sin against a player like Raonic, and his profligacy was ruthlessly punished. Both chances were efficiently converted, and soon Raonic was two sets to love up.

There was always the question of whether Raonic would have the fitness in his legs to survive a long match if Tsitsipas could somehow work his way into the contest, but it was an inquisition the Canadian avoided with some ruthless hitting in the third set tiebreak, leaving a disgruntled Tsitsipas to ruffle his tousled locks while throwing despairing glances to the heavens.

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Tsitsipas couldn't reprise his 2019 heroics this January

Soon Tsitsipas was on his way out of Melbourne Park, and his hopes of a first Grand Slam title will now have to wait until Roland Garros later this year. Raonic, meanwhile, will play Croatian Marin Cilic in the fourth round on Sunday. 

MORE: Osaka, Tsitsipas rue early exits

Raonic admitted afterwards that he had sensed his opponent's growing frustrations as the match progressed.

"I know I'm not necessarily easy to play, especially if I serve well, if I do my things well, if I can find a way to move forward," he said.

"There is not many guys necessarily that play the way I do, and I can find an efficiency in it. So I'm aware of that. I wasn't really caught up in what was going on with him. But I could imagine that, you know, not having any opportunities on the return games, it can be frustrating. I just tried to keep him off-balance, and I know that's sort of my recipe for success if I can keep the guy feeling uncomfortable."