Melbourne: Milos Raonic sent sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas tumbling out of the Australian Open in the third round on Friday, with the Greek hotshot powerless against the Canadian’s big serve and pinpoint groundstrokes.
Tsitsipas, widely tipped as a challenger to the big guns at the opening Grand Slam of the year, was no match for his experienced opponent, slumping 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
Expectations were high for the 21-year-old, who stunned Roger Federer last year en route to the semi-finals, before winning titles in Marseille and Estoril and at the season-ending ATP Finals in London.
But Raonic, 29, had his measure, pumping down almost unplayable 220 kmph (136 mph) serves while smashing 19 aces and 55 winners.
“Today was an incredible match for me. I’m really happy with how things went,” said Raonic.
“I enjoy the energy here. To be healthy and playing well, I take a lot of pleasure out of that.”
His win set up a mouthwatering fourth-round clash against 2018 finalist Marin Cilic, who battled past ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in five gruelling sets.
Raonic has form at Melbourne Park, reaching the semi-final in 2016, when he lost to Andy Murray, and the quarters on three other occasions, including last year to make it his most successful Grand Slam.
‘All the pieces
His career, though, has been plagued by injuries, with surgeries over the years for hip, foot and wrist problems. He has also struggled with back, ankle, calf and knee issues which have stymied his progress.
“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. I was very happy with the outcome on court,” said the Canadian.
Seeded 32, his lowest ever at a Slam, he turned back the clock against Tsitsipas, who had a bye in the second round when his German opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber pulled out injured.
Raonic is feared for his big serve and he sent down plenty of aces in the first set to set the tone, with the Greek desperately defending and unable to create chances.
It was more of the same in the second and third sets as the Canadian, looking for his first title since Brisbane 2016, turned the screws.
Tsitsipas said he simply couldn’t get into the game.
“He’s playing forehands from all over the court, and you don’t really know where you should stand exactly, because he’s just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands,” he said.
“Serve is great, one of the best in the game. You have to wait for a tie-break or play an amazing return game, which wasn’t the case today.”
Despite the defeat, he said he had learned to take it on the chin.
“That’s life. I have learned to deal with it,” he said. “Last year I wasn’t able to deal with it. I was heartbroken after my semi-final loss. This year is different. I’ll just keep going.” — AFP