By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – In-form Canadian Milos Raonic pounded down 35 aces and 55 winners to overcome Croatian Marin Cilic 6-4 6-3 7-5 on Sunday and become the first man to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, may have been feeling the effects of two five-set matches against seeded opponents earlier in the tournament and needed a lengthy medical timeout for treatment on his back at 3-0 down in the second set.
Also a former world number three, the 31-year-old still had enough game to test Raonic, especially when he was able to engage the Canadian in lengthier rallies.
Raonic was consistently sending down serves well in excess of 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph), however, and it was appropriate that he finished the match on Margaret Court Arena with one final booming ace.
“I’m just happy to be playing well, to be playing in this kind of atmosphere and this kind of support,” said Raonic, a semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2016.
“It feels pretty damn good I’ve gotta say, I can’t complain about it. It’s been an exciting tournament for me so far and hopefully there are exciting things ahead.”
In the last eight, Raonic is likely to face Novak Djokovic, who was playing Diego Schwartzman on Rod Laver Arena as the Canadian wrapped up his match.
The Serbian has a 9-0 career record against Raonic, including a win in the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2015.
The Montenegro-born world number 35 said he would need to be on top of his game to get past the defending champion.
“I think I’m going have to hit more … aces,” he laughed.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)