Alexandr Dolgopolov storms into Indian Wells semi-finals
Alexandr Dolgopolov advanced to the first ATP Masters semi-final of his career on Thursday, surging past Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final four at Indian Wells.
Dolgopolov, the world number 31 from Ukraine who stunned world number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the third round and beat 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini in the fourth, will face the winner of Thursday night`s match between 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and South African Kevin Anderson.
Anderson, seeded 17th, upset third-seeded Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round to get his shot at seventh-seeded Federer, who arrived in California off an impressive title run in Dubai.
Dolgopolov, who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals back in 2011 and was ranked as high as 13th in the world in January of 2012, said there`s no reason he can`t go all the way in the California desert.
"We`ll see. Why not?" said Dolgopolov, who reached the final in Rio de Janeiro and the semi-finals in Mexico last month.
"I played good for three weeks. I`m quite fresh. I felt good physically today. I`m confident enough to come out and play good tennis. Then who knows."
Not surprisingly, Dolgopolov said returning well against the notoriously big-serving Raonic was the key to his win.
"I was quite fast today," Dolgopolov said. "I was really happy with that. And I was able to get more returns than usually you can against him.
"He serves really big and I knew I had to do that, and I`m quite pleased how I anticipated on his serve and have seen the toss of the ball and was really, really concentrated to get those serves back."
Raonic, playing his first tournament since injuring his ankle in reaching the third round of the Australian Open, admitted Dolgopolov`s return game made him think.
"He did the right things at the right times, right away from the start of the match," Raonic said.
"He was a factor of why I didn`t serve as well as I would have liked.
"First serve of the match, 141 (mph, 227 kph) -- returns deep," Raonic said. He was even more surprised at 30-30 in the same game: "145 (233.35 kph) into the body -- returns it even harder than I served it on him.
"He made me think more than most people can on my service games."
Dolgopolov thought the consistency of his own first serves could have been better, but was pleased that he came up with some good ones when he had to.
"Happily it`s working in the important moments," he said. "When I concentrate and I`m not doing a good percentage but I`m serving some good serves on the break points, on big points."
After Dolgopolov had raced through the opening set, Raonic seemed to have found his range, taking a quick 3-0 lead in the second.
However, Dolgopolov at last converted on his seventh break chance of the set in the fifth game, and broke Raonic again for a 4-3 lead that he wouldn`t relinquish.