By Dave Gertler
(August 15, 2014) MASON, OHIO – After the disappointment of failing to reach the semifinal of his home Masters 1000 last week in Toronto, Milos Raonic has breezed into the Western & Southern Open semifinal today in Cincinnati. While Raonic’s 6-1, 6-0 win over Fabio Fognini might seem ominous, his semifinal opponent will be Roger Federer who defeated Andy Murray 6-3, 7-5 in the evening session.
Fognini – who had advanced to his first career quarterfinal in Cincinnati – ran out of luck as he stepped up against the big-serving Canadian. In a match lasting 57 minutes, Raonic’s serve statistics were troubling for his opponent. He only lost 4 points the whole match behind his first serve, and of the 10 he lost behind his second serve, 3 were double faults. “You can’t really control him,” said Raonic of his often erratic opponent, “It can be very sporadic at times. You just focus on yourself and make sure you do yourself and see and adjust to how things are coming from him as you go.”
Although the 27-year-old Italian forced Raonic to successfully defend 7 break points in the second set, he had fewer points than that won on his own serve, and was unable to get on the scoreboard. Despite having two game points in the last game of the match, Fognini double-faulted twice. The last play of the match was a Fognini foot-fault, reminiscent of his loss last year in Cincinnati to Radek Stepanek, where he deliberately foot-faulted to lose the match, before being booed off the court.
In Friday’s first men’s quarterfinal, Julien Benneteau scored an upset win over 3rd seed Stan Wawrinka in three sets on Center Court. Despite the Swiss racing away to a 6-1 lead, Benneteau drew on the confidence of his winning career record against Wawrinka, and was able to turn the match around, losing only three more games, taking the match 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.
“At the end of first set,” said the 32-year-old Frenchman, of how he turned the match around, “I talk to myself and I said, OK, if I don’t change anything it’s going to be 1 and 3 in 50 minutes and you’re going to lose it. So I said that I need to play harder from the baseline and to put a little bit more intensity in my strokes. Even if I miss it’s OK, but I have to play like this. I thought that the two, three first games of the second set are going to be tough. It’s going to be a tough fight, and I prepare myself to resist to that. I say, OK, you have to stay in the game. You have to take the score. And I broke in the first game, on his first service game in the second set.”
Making his first career appearance at a Masters 1000 semifinal, world No.41 Benneteau is looking forward to the opportunity, saying, “Of course it means something. But the tournament is not done, and I still have a lot to do. We will see.” His semifinal opponent will be David Ferrer, who ousted fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo earlier on Friday.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .