INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.–It took Milos Raonic a little while to find his rhythm after an unexpected layoff at the start of the BNP Paribas Open.
Once he did, he was able to outserve Marin Cilic in a matchup of two of the hardest hitters on the ATP Tour.
The Canadian advanced to the fourth round at Indian Wells on Tuesday after coming back from a set down and upsetting No. 12 Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Raonic, seeded 17th at the Tennis Garden, was playing his first singles match of the tournament after a first-round bye and a walkover in the second round after French opponent Michael Llodra withdrew injured.
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., said that finally getting singles action five days into the tournament was not an ideal scenario.
“I didn’t start with any rhythm, I didn’t have a match really to pick up off,” he said. “Marin plays really well, very consistent. He changes up quickly, so he moves well for a tall guy. I was trying to force a little bit too much (in the first set).
“I was rushing in the beginning. I wasn’t getting good position; wasn’t moving well. It was just everything connected to poor shot selection and poor execution.”
Raonic will meet eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round. Tsonga and Raonic faced off in the second round of the London Olympics, with the Frenchman finally prevailing 25-23 in the third set.
Raonic sees little similarities in the Olympic battle on Wimbledon’s grass and the upcoming match.
“I don’t know about him, but I know I’m definitely a lot more comfortable on hard courts,” Raonic said. “He’s playing well. He’s been playing well consistently since the start of this year.
“I’ve just got to get out there and focus. We’re both going to be trying to get ahead in the points early. He’s very athletic. I just have to go out there and try to get ahead and play as much as I can on my terms.
“I’m going to have to serve well, take care of my serve like I was able to today, especially after the first game of the second set, and try, sort of, to get ahead on his second-serve points.”
Tuesday’s contest quickly turned into a predictable battle of huge serves, with Raonic earning the victory with 16 aces – his last one on match point – while his opponent managed eight.
Raonic lost his only service game when Cilic took a 4-2 lead on the way to winning the opening set. Raonic broke Cilic once per set in the last two as he turned the tables and headed for victory.
Raonic’s victory gave him his best finish at the event after stalling in the third round at the last two editions.
He now stands 1-1 with Cilic after losing to the six-foot-six Croatian two years ago in Valencia.
Prior to the match, Raonic was able to get some doubles action under his belt. Raonic and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez lost in the second round after beating Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and Mahesh Bhupathi in their opener.