MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Milos Raonic fought off a spirited comeback from fourth seed Stan Wawrinka to send the 2014 champion crashing out of the fourth round of the Australian Open 6-4 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-3 on Monday.
The Canadian, who had never beaten the French Open champion in four previous meetings, fired 24 aces and hit 82 winners in the three hour, 44 minute contest to reach the quarter-finals for the second year in a row.
Raonic sealed the victory with a simple volley into an open court to set up a quarter-final against France’s Gael Monfils, an appropriate end to a contest where he came to the net 83 times and won 54 points.
“I think it’s about trying to play in your rhythm and dictating,” world number 14 Raonic, who briefly reached as high as number four last year, said in an on-court interview.
“It’s the next step for me to achieve the goals I want to achieve.”
Swiss Wawrinka, who has been suffering from a cold, fought back to force a deciding set but was unable to avoid a grand slam exit before the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2014 French Open.
”Tough match in general,“ said Wawrinka. ”I wasn’t really feeling great, wasn’t moving well. I fought as always but I‘m surprised I made it five sets.
“I‘m disappointed but I tried, I tried.”
Raonic was ruthlessly efficient in the first two sets, his powerful serve working well and his attack-minded game overwhelming his lethargic looking opponent.
The Canadian, who began the year winning the title in Brisbane against Roger Federer, showed his first sign of weakness at 5-5 in the third set when he let a Wawrinka shot sail past him only to see the ball land in, allowing the Swiss to break serve for the first time.
Wawrinka seized the moment and served out to win the set.
Another break early in the fourth allowed him to even up the contest.
“C‘mon!” the Swiss shouted repeatedly as he roused himself from torpor and hustled along the baseline pouncing ever more efficiently on the Canadian’s second serve.
Raonic restored stability to his serve in the decider and when he broke for 4-2 after Wawrinka sent a forehand long, there was to be no way back a second time for his 30-year-old opponent.
The upset continued a strong run of form that saw Raonic claim his eighth career title in Brisbane.
The 25-year-old has been working with Spaniard Carlos Moya but said it was too early to credit the former world number one with technical changes to his game.
“I think it’s about a calm and an understanding of how I can be more efficient in my game,” he added.
Editing by Martyn Herman