Milos Raonic advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final in four and a half years on Friday with a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The unseeded Canadian won 90 per cent of first-serve points (35/39) to reach his fourth Masters 1000 championship match (0-3) after one hour and 37 minutes. Raonic is through to his first final at the level since his runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells.
In January, Raonic did not face a break point to defeat Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2) in his first ATP Head2Head contest against the Greek. After picking up his second win in as many matches against the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, Raonic has won each of his 28 service games against Tsitsipas and faced only one break point.
Since reaching a career-high No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 21 November 2016, Raonic has consistently struggled with injuries. Last year, the Canadian withdrew from 10 events due to injury. But now, after the five-month suspension of the ATP Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a fresh Raonic has returned to peak form.
Prior to his victory against fourth seed Tsitsipas, Raonic beat Sam Querrey, Daniel Evans, two-time champion Andy Murray and Filip Krajinovic to reach the semi-finals. In his quarter-final against Krajinovic the Canadian was forced to save match point at 4-5, 30/40, in the deciding set.
Raonic will meet World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or Roberto Bautista Agut for the title. The eight-time ATP Tour titlist owns a 0-10 ATP Head2Head record against Djokovic and is unbeaten in five ATP Head2Head encounters against Bautista Agut.
In a first set which featured only one break point, Raonic ran around his backhand at 5-6, 30/40, to save set point with a series of powerful forehands. In the tie-break, the Canadian recovered from a mini-break down and hit back-to-back forehand winners at 5/5 to clinch the first set.
Raonic continued to use his forehand to break through the defence of Tsitsipas early in the second set and, on his first break point at 2-1, the World No. 30 became the first player to break Tsitsipas’ serve this week with a low backhand passing shot. Raonic held his advantage and served out the match to love, claiming victory with a strong serve into his opponent’s backhand.