Competing in Cincinnati as world no. 10 two years ago, the five-time beaten finalist Novak Djokovic advanced into the first Masters 1000 semi-final since Shanghai 2016. Novak took down Milos Raonic 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 31 minutes.
It was their ninth meeting and the Serb remained a dominant figure, taking 21 out of 23 sets! The Canadian had his chances, leading 5-3 in the opener before losing the next four games and squandering an early lead in the deciding set to end on the losing side once again against Novak.
Raonic had 21 aces but Novak gave his best on the return, reading rival's serve well and creating no less than 14 break chances, converting four in sets one and three to emerge at the top. The Serb did more damage with his second serve, repelling five out of eight break points to emerge as a winner, entering his sixth Cincinnati semi-final and hoping to stay undefeated in that round in Ohio.
Djokovic tamed his shots nicely, hitting 23 winners with 17 unforced errors, while Raonic counted to 43 winners and 50 mistakes, giving his best from the baseline against the mighty opponent but just falling short in the end.
Novak stayed in touch with Milos in the quickest rallies and had a small edge in the mid-range and extended exchanges to win five points more overall and wrap up another good win after an early exit in Toronto the previous week.
It was the worst start for Raonic, having to play against five break points in game two but saving them all to keep his serve intact after more than 14 minutes! After missing his opportunities, Novak got broken in game seven after a great return from Raonic that he failed to control, breaking his racquet in anger and finding himself 5-3 down after four service winners from Milos in the next game.
Serving for the set at 5-4, the Canadian hit a double fault to suffer a break, allowing Novak to grab the set in 64 minutes with another break in game 12 after the seventh double fault from the lower-ranked player.
In Cincinnati 2018, Novak Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic in the quarters.
Milos started to defend his second serve more efficiently in set number two and never faced a break point, waiting for his chance on the return patiently.
It came in game three when he broke Novak after a 22-shot rally and a forehand winner, securing this part of the match on his fourth set point in game ten, forcing an error from Novak to grab it 6-4 and force a decider. The Canadian moved 2-1 up with a forehand down the line winner, having to serve well by the end to notch the first triumph over the Serb.
That was easier said than done, though, as Novak broke back in the next game to level the score at 2-2 and gain the momentum. Djokovic clinched another break at 4-3 when Milos netted a forehand, serving for the victory and sealing the deal with a forehand winner in game nine to set the clash against Marin Cilic.