By Nick Mulvenney
A clinical Milos Raonic stormed past Gael Monfils 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 under the closed roof at Rod Laver Arena to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old negated the Frenchman’s mobility with his powerful serve and fierce forehands to become the first Canadian man to reach the last four at Melbourne Park.
Playing indoors as he has for much of his life growing up in Canada, the Montenegro-born 13th seed needed only a single break in the first, third and fourth sets to earn the victory.
“It’s an amazing feeling, tennis is growing very quickly in Canada and to be a big part of it is an honour,” Raonic said.
“I just said to myself ‘just keep creating opportunities’. I thought I played some great tennis, whether indoors was a factor I don’t know, it definitely gave my mind some peace.”
Monfils, at 25th in the world the lowest ranked player in the last eight, converted one of only two break points he had in the match to snatch the second set and made only 17 unforced errors.
In a contest almost bereft of long rallies, however, the 29-year-old was unable to match the power and precision of the Canadian’s shot-making.
“I think he played good. Very aggressive,” said Monfils. “But it was not a bad match from me. I was just happy. I was focused, played my match point-by-point.”
Although he serve-volleyed on fewer occasions than he had in his fourth round upset of former champion Stan Wawrinka, Raonic came forward when he needed to and won 31 of 46 points at the net.
It was with a final huge forehand for his 47th winner after two hours and 17 minutes, however, that he set up a last four meeting with British second seed Andy Murray.
“A great challenge ahead of me… a challenge I believe I have it within myself to find a solution to,” said Raonic, who is unbeaten in nine matches this season.
It will be Raonic’s second grand slam semi-final after his 2014 Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer, who he beat to open his season with a title in Brisbane two weeks ago.
“I sort of just want to change that story around and give myself another go with more experience and where I feel like I’m a better player than I was two years ago,” he said.