Canadian Milos Raonic is through to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, the second consecutive year the Thornhill, Ontario product has advanced to this stage of the season’s first Grand Slam. The No. 13 seed earned his trip to the final eight with a five-set win over Stan Wawrinka, who won in Melbourne in 2014 and captured the French Open in 2015. Raonic took the opening two sets to build a healthy lead, but fell 7-5 and 6-4 in sets three and four as the fourth-ranked player in the world battled back to force a decisive fifth set.
Despite the Swiss standout carrying the momentum into the final set, Raonic was able to stem the tide and regain his form from earlier in the match, taking the fifth 6-3 to advance. He’ll now meet No. 23 seed Gael Monfils, who only dropped one set while avoiding any other seeded players on his way to the quarters, on Wednesday. This is a huge opportunity for Raonic, who is 8-0 to start the year, including victories over the top-ranked Swiss tandem of Wawrinka and Roger Federer, whom the Canadian defeated in claiming the Brisbane International prior to play beginning in Melbourne.
Monfils has never made it this far at the Australian Open before and has advanced beyond the quarterfinals just once in his career, all the way back at the 2008 French Open, where he was ousted in four sets by Federer. That being said, the energetic Frenchmen is 2-0 against Raonic head-to-head, which should bolster his confidence.
That shouldn’t bother the Canadian though.
He’s playing terrific tennis right now and rallied back against one of the best in the world on Sunday after starting hot and stumbling. Those are the kinds of wins that a player like Raonic needs to advance to the next level and we could be watching the 25-year-old take that next step in Australia. Should Raonic advance, he’ll take on the winner of the quarterfinal match-up between No. 2 seed Andy Murray of Great Britain and No. 8 seed David Ferrer or Spain. The other two quarterfinal pairings are No. 1 Novak Djokovic taking on No. 7 Kei Nishikori and No. 3 Roger Federer facing No. 6 Tomas Berdych.
Raonic isn’t the only Canadian that has advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2016 Australian Open though, as both Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor have made it through to the final eight in doubles with their respective partners. But both Pospisil and Nestor have hoisted Grand Slam trophies in the past, while this feels like it might be Raonic’s breakthrough moment.
Regardless of how things play out from here, this is a great start to the 2016 campaign for Raonic, who struggled for much of last season with an assortment of injuries. A win over Monfils and trip to the semis would be outstanding, but no matter what happens, Melbourne has been a positive step forward for the Canadian with the booming serve and the win over Wawrinka should pay dividends throughout the season.