Milos Raonic was at his efficient best on Thursday afternoon, beating Serbian lucky loser Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4 to reach his fourth BNP Paribas Open semi-final in Indian Wells.
The Canadian, who made the 2016 final (l. to Djokovic), didn't have his best serving day – making only 55 per cent of his first serves – but he made the ones he landed count, winning almost 90 per cent (30/34) of his rocket first offerings.
“In a few key moments my serve really helped me out,” Raonic said. “I knew it was going to be tough. He's won his last three matches against good players... So I knew he had nothing to lose, and I had to be really disciplined with myself, and I'm happy I was able to follow through.”
Kecmanovic, playing in his first tour-level quarter-final, held his own for much of the his first tour-level quarter-final, stretching Raonic to the corners to start the point and opening up the court. But the 19-year-old Serbian, who had one tour-level win before Indian Wells, couldn't convert any of his three break points, including two at 3-4 in the second set.
“I think the conditions are good for me, especially when the sun's out," said Raonic about his Indian Wells success. "The court heats up a little bit. There is a good amount of jump on the court. This year it's a little bit slower than the previous years, but it allows me to take a few more swipes at a few more shots, and I can do different things with my serve that I need to get ahead in the point."
The 28-year-old will meet Dominic Thiem for a place in the ATP Masters 1000 final. Thiem advanced when Gael Monfils withdrew from their quarter-final because of a severely strained Achilles tendon on his left leg. Raonic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0.
"I tried to warm up and my left Achilles was very painful since a couple days, and this morning was really tough for me, to run 100 per cent, and tonight I tried to hit a little bit, and I cannot compete 100 per cent tonight," said Monfils, who decided to explain his withdrawal on court to the Stadium 1 fans who were waiting for his match.
The 6'5” Canadian has reached three Masters 1000 finals – 2013 Canada, 2014 Paris, 2016 Indian Wells – but hasn't won a tour-level title in more than three years (January 2016, Brisbane). His maiden Masters 1000 title would be one of his best accomplishments to date.
"It would be there, I believe, parallel to the  Wimbledon final, if not higher, just because it's going through a week amongst the best players in the world," Raonic said. "It's not easy to do, especially not the ones at the beginning of the year, these two [Indian Wells and Miami], because guys have a lot of time. Nobody is really rushing here. Guys can bring their best tennis because it's an extended tournament. So it's tough to do it here."