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By Chris Oddo | Thursday January 17, 2019


Photo: Mark Peterson/ Corleve

It was a week one tilt with a week two feel, as former Top 5 talents Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic kept fans on the edge of their seats for over four hours on Rod Laver Arena.

Just like their last epic at the Australian Open, won by Raonic in five sets, this one was tense and dramatic and included four nail biting tiebreakers.

It was 16th-seeded Raonic who rose to the occasion and emerged with a 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 7-6(11), 7-6(5) triumph to set a third-round clash with Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The affair, billed as a matchup of resurgent forces of men’s tennis, did not disappoint. Both players showed glimpses of what we’ve known them to be and what they might become once again, and as the two traded set point saves in the epic third-set breaker, it became apparent that each player might be headed for an impressive 2019 campaign.

"It feels like four hours passed by in about 15 minutes," said Raonic of the affair with the three-time Grand Slam champion who is currently ranked 59 as he makes his way up the rankings in his second season after having double knee surgery late in 2017.

Unfortunately, only one could win this second-round encounter and Raonic made the most of his chances to ensure that it was him.

Raonic had to save set points at 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10 in the third-set breaker, and he did it with clarity, saving one with a forehand winner, one by forcing a Wawrinka error and the final one with one of his 39 aces.

A roof closure due to rain at 4-4 in the third set may have also aided Raonic—he generally likes playing under a roof more than Wawrinka and he has won four of his eight titles indoors—but the Swiss had his chances to level the match when he broke for 4-2 in set four and then followed with a hold for 5-2.

"I'm thankful that it was indoors. I do a little bit better indoors than I do outdoors, I guess that helps me in my own way, so thank you for raining up there," the Canadian told Jim Courier on court after the match. "I still had to make the most of it, and somehow I managed."

A steadfast Raonic would convert his second break point of the ninth game to get back on serve in set four and push things to a tiebreaker. The Canadian blinked first surrendering a mini-break in the second point, but he quickly recovered it when he forced a Wawrinka error for 2-3.

The pair held their nerve on serve with Raonic earning a match point by ripping an ace for 6-5 and the Canadian converted, clinching his victory at 4:01 when Wawrinka missed with the forehand long

"I was very fortunate to stay alive in that fourth set, made the most of it there," he said. "I'm thankful that I was able to play a good match and play good in these moments, and enjoy this atmosphere as well." 


 

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