Djokovic and Raonic to clash in Australian Open quarter-finals

andrew hendrie:

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has set up an Australian Open quarter-final showdown with a resurgent Milos Raonic after beating Diego Schwartzman in straight sets on Sunday.

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It was another devastating performance from the defending champion as Djokovic improved his record over Schwartzman to 4-0, conquering the 14th seed by a 6-3 6-4 6-4 scoreline.

Djokovic wasn’t as dominant behind his serve as he was against Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round, but his numbers were still impressive, winning 75 per cent of first-serve points, firing 38 winners and converting four of eight break points in the straight sets dispatch.

“It’s the fourth round of a Grand Slam and Diego is a quality player. He’s had a terrific tournament in the first three rounds. I knew if I gave him time, he could do a lot of damage. He’s one of the quickest players on the Tour,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

“I tried to mix it up a bit, hit a few slices and bring him into the net sometimes. It worked well today.”

Djokovic is bidding to win a record-extending eighth Australian Open title this tournament after crushing Rafael Nadal in straight sets last year.

The Serbian is 10-0 for 2020 after launching his season by helping Serbia win the inaugural ATP Cup title, beating the likes of Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev and Nadal along the way, while the only set he’s dropped so far in Melbourne came against Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round.

Perhaps surprisingly, his opponent in the quarter-finals hasn’t dropped a set on his way to the last eight, with Raonic – a 2016 semi-finalist in Melbourne – continuing his impressive form with a 6-4 6-3 7-5 win over 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic.

Milos Raonic (AAP Image/Rob Prezioso)

Raonic backed up his big win over reigning ATP Finals champion and World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas with another blistering performance against Cilic, blasting down 35 aces in a total of 55 winners.

“It feels pretty damn good, I’ve got to say,” Raonic said on court after his win. “I can’t complain about it and I’m just happy with how things are going. I’m happy I have another chance to play in two days here and it’s been an exciting tournament for me so far, but hopefully there are more exciting things ahead.”

It goes without saying Raonic faces his toughest test yet against Djokovic, with the Canadian losing all nine of their previous encounters, including their 2015 Australian Open quarter-final in straight sets.

But while Djokovic has undisputed dominance in this match-up with his superb return of serve, the World No. 2 knows he can’t afford to lose any of his intensity if he wants to make the semi-finals.

“He’s one of the tallest and strongest guys physically on the Tour. He has one of the biggest serves. I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net,” Djokovic said of Raonic. “I played him here and remember it well… One of the key elements will be how well I’m returning and how confident I am on my service games. 

“I’m glad to see him healthy and playing at a really good level again. He’s a great guy. I’ve known him for many years and he’s a good friend. We speak the same language. It’s nice to see him in the quarters.”