When No. 2-seed Andy Murray meets No. 13-seed Milos Raonic in the Australian Open semifinals on Friday night, he’ll face a much different player than the one he beat in their last meeting at the Madrid Masters in May 2015.
“He was struggling a little bit there,” Murray said of his 6–4, 7–5 win in Madrid on clay. “Then I think he had the surgery on his foot and missed the French and maybe Wimbledon as well. He's obviously fit and healthy now and playing well.”
Raonic is undefeated this season—he beat Federer to capture the title in Brisbane earlier this month—and has continued his form in Melbourne, upsetting No. 4-seed Stan Wawrinka in five sets in the fourth round and defeating No. 23-seed Gael Monfils in four sets in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Under the tutelage of new coach Carlos Moya, the Canadian has also added new weapons to his arsenal, incorporating a more attacking style that has helped him in the later rounds at the Australian Open.
“I think it's what helped me win in Brisbane….that comfort and confidence of going forward,” Raonic said. “But not even just that. In the off-season I spent a lot of time up at the net. So it's not just about a confidence, it's about an understanding of what I need to do, where you go in certain situations, how not only to finish the points, how to defend a little bit better at the net and how to cover and move better to make the opponent think.”
Murray, who will be playing in his 18th Grand Slam semifinal on Friday, is looking to win his first Australian Open title after making four finals appearances in the past six years. The No. 2-seed beat David Ferrer in four sets in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and also notched wins over Bernard Tomic and Joao Sousa. Murray and Raonic are tied in their head-to-head at 3–3, but Murray has won their last two matches, including their only Grand Slam meeting, at the 2012 U.S. Open.
“You want to try to get to the latter stages to give yourself opportunities. Obviously I want to win these events. That's why I'm still playing,” Murray said. “After a tough year in 2014, I think I'm now sort of established again at the top of the game and giving myself chances. That's all I can keep doing. And working hard.”
Friday’s match will be Raonic’s second career major semifinal and he’ll look to make his first career final against Murray.
“As much as I look back on it, even before I went on court today I was paying attention to what he was doing. Because far from where we were 14 months ago, we're both very different and I think improved players from then,” Raonic said of his previous matches against Murray. “So I have certain aspects that I would like to manipulate and use my game in, and I'm sure he's going to try to do a lot of different things, too. I think it's going to be a race to who can get in the comfort zone of themselves first.”
The winner of that race will meet No. 1-seed and five-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the final, who defeated Roger Federer 6–1, 6–2, 3–6, 6–3 in Thursday night's semifinals match.