INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Milos Raonic earned a spot in a tournament final for the second time in 2016, this time at a prestigious Masters-level event.
Raonic fired 10 aces on his way to overpowering David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 Saturday to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open.
The Canadian improved to a career-best 14-1 this year and will play either top-ranked Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final. Djokovic and Nadal own a combined seven titles in the California desert.
“I feel like I did the things right,” Raonic said. “I lost my way a little bit in the second set.
“It’s important to me to be able to recognize that and get the things back on the right track and play and finish off with some good tennis like I did.”
The six-foot-two Raonic overpowered his smaller opponent, connecting on 63 per cent of his first serves in the two-hour match. The Canadian averaged 131 mph on his first serve and even his second serve was 2 mph faster than Goffin’s first serve of 110. Raonic has yet to drop a set in four matches.
Goffin, who gave up 6 inches to Raonic, had won three straight three-set matches coming into the semis.
Raonic, who is currently ranked No. 14 in the world, will move to at least No. 12 in the new rankings released Monday. He could rise as high as No. 10 if he wins the final. He will make his 17th career appearance in a tournament final, the third in a Masters-level event. Raonic has eight career titles but none at the Masters level.
“Against Novak it’s a difficult matchup,” Raonic said. “I’ve added good things to my tennis that can help me in that aspect, it’s going to be important to control the centre of the court.
“The same applies to me when I play Rafa. I think for me my game plan is simple, It’s about dictating. I don’t think it’s so much about who’s on the other side of the net.”
Raonic improved on his results from Indian Wells in 2015 when he lost to Roger Federer in the semifinals. Raonic’s only victory in seven career meetings with Nadal was in the quarter-finals here in 2015.
His only loss in 2016 came against Andy Murray in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January. This is Raonic’s first tournament since then.
“I have a big challenge ahead of me, but I have been pretty good this year at finding solutions,” Raonic said.
Djokovic dominated both tiebreakers to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) on Friday night, setting up the semifinal against Nadal featuring two players who own a combined seven titles in the California desert.
Nadal defeated Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3, Friday connecting on 89 per cent of his first serves in the match played in 32C heat under a relentless sun. Nadal is a three-time winner at Indian Wells.
Saturday’s semifinal will be the 48th meeting between Djokovic and Nadal. Djokovic leads 24-23 and has won their last five meetings.
Serena Williams rallied after squandering a 3-0 lead in the second set to beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (1) Friday and reach the final for the first time since 2001, when she won and then boycotted the event for 14 years until returning last year.
In Sunday’s final, Williams will take on Victoria Azarenka, who advanced with a 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-2 win over Karolina Pliskova.