Milos Raonic has now beaten Andy Murray in three of their four career meetings. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- No. 11 Milos Roanic beat No. 6 Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday.
Raonic rallied after losing the first set and broke Murray out of nowhere in the second set to level the match. Murray jumped to a 2-1 lead in the third, but Raonic won five of the last six games to advance to his first quarterfinal in the desert.
The 23-year-old Raonic is playing in his first tournament since an ankle injury sidelined him after the Australian Open. He barely survived his opening match, needing 33 aces to defeat No. 42 Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (2). An underdog by ranking on Wednesday, Raonic improved to 3-1 against Murray, whose sole victory came at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Raonic fired 15 aces among 42 winners and committed 38 unforced errors. He had a successful day closing off the net, converting 27-of-33 chances. He did well to keep the match tight but gave away an early break in the third set that should have been enough for Murray to hold on. But Murray again showed a remarkable lack of focus once he earned the lead, playing a horrible, error-filled game to immediately give back the break at love en route to losing four games in a row. Once Raonic got the lead, his nerve and his serve held up and he closed the match nicely with two aces and a forehand winner.
"It was poor," Murray said. "I mean, to get broken two consecutive times in that situation isn't good enough. I played poor tennis at that stage. I didn't make enough balls, missed easy shots. But really easy shots, not ones that are just deep balls where you're just trying to get it back into play. There were some where he was standing in the net, and I just had to hit it to the other side. Missing shots like that."
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The Canadian's big serve has been a difficult puzzle to solve for Murray, who is still struggling to find his top form after having back surgery last fall. Murray has yet to make a final in five tournaments this year, and he's had to scrap for several victories against players ranked well below him. He has gone to three sets in six of his last seven matches, including three straight in Indian Wells -- against No. 47 Lukas Rosol, No. 77 Jiri Vesely and now No. 11 Raonic.
Murray chalked up his scratchy form to a lack of confidence. His body feels good and he believes he's match fit, but the focus and intensity have wavered during his matches this season.
"Today I was just really disappointed with how the last 15 minutes of the match went," Murray said. "That was really, really poor. Acapulco was the same [where he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals]. My matches have been a little bit patchy over the past few weeks."
Raonic will play No. 31 Alexandr Dolgopolov in the quarterfinals after the Ukrainian followed up his big win over No. 1 Rafael Nadal with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against No. 14 Fabio Fognini. That match will be severe contrast in styles, pitting Dolgopolov's unpredictability and shot making against Raonic's power.
"The most important thing is obviously my serve," Raonic said. "And the beauty of that is nobody can affect me. The ball is in my hand, and I serve it up and I toss it up when I want to."
Raonic echoed Dolgopolov's comments that there is more belief in the locker room that the ATP's Big Four can be beaten. That mindset can be traced to the Australian Open, where Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovic and Nadal on his way to his first Grand Slam title.
"Everybody in that top-10 range, also a little bit outside trying to break through, took a deep breath and said, Why can't that be me?" Raonic said.
This post has been updated.