Canada’s Milos Raonic falls in Australian Open quarters to Novak Djokovic

Serbia's Novak Djokovic, right, is congratulated by Canada's Milos Raonic after winning their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open. (Lee Jin-man/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Milos Raonic just can’t solve Novak Djokovic.

The No. 32 seed from Thornhill, Ont., fell to 0-10 against the second-seeded Djokovic with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (1) loss in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Raonic said Djokovic was "just too good."

"Him, all the other top guys as well, once they sort of can get into a groove, get their balance behind them, things get more difficult," Raonic said. "He was in a lot of my service games. I was sort of holding on. But eventually at one point, he found an opening.

"I think I needed to execute a little bit better, maybe go in with a different approach."

Raonic, 29, hadn’t lost a set in four previous matches at the tournament before running into Djokovic, who is known as one of the sport’s top service returners.

The hard-serving Canadian had 18 aces, while Djokovic had just four. But Djokovic still had a better percentage of points won when getting the first serve in — converting on 69 per cent of his chances as compared to Raonic’s 63 per-cent clip.

"You feel it not because it comes back necessarily quicker, but the fact is that he gets his racket on a lot of returns," Raonic said. "That’s the part. He just makes you play more and more.

"Obviously on the second-serve return, he does have a much better return than most of the rest of the tour. But on the first serve, you feel it because he just gets his hand on it."

Raonic had only two break-point chances, and couldn’t convert on either. Djokovic was 2-for-16 on break points.

Raonic was well ahead in unforced errors, making 48 to Djokovic’s 14. That was a bigger gap than in winners, which Raonic led 48-29.

It was Raonic’s fifth run to the quarterfinals or better at the Australian Open in the past six years. It came after a second half of a 2019 season in which Raonic missed large portions of time due to a back injury.

"Overall, a lot of positive things for me this week," Raonic said. "I think that’s where my focus is at."

Djokovic, despite having issues with his contact lenses in the third set, is now two wins away from defending his Australian Open crown.

The Serbian next plays six-time Australian Open winner Roger Federer, who saved seven match points before fending off 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren in five sets. Djokovic has never lost a semifinal or final he has contested at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, who has won the season’s first Grand Slam seven times, paid tribute to a man he has called his mentor — Kobe Bryant — after the match. The former Los Angeles Lakers star, his daughter Gigi and seven others died in a helicopter crash Sunday.

When he signed the camera after the win (a tennis tradition), Djokovic wrote "KB 8 24 Gigi. Love you," referring to Bryant’s two jersey numbers.

"It’s really sad," Djokovic said. "His daughter is 13 years old. I don’t know what to say, to be honest. I’m sorry. I’m heartbroken, honestly, with what has happened."

Raonic, meanwhile, said he’s planning to return to action next month at an indoor hard-court event in New York, followed by an outdoor hard-court event in Delray Beach, Fla.

The looming clay-court season is traditionally a weak surface for Raonic.

"I have to see where I am and I’ll see what I’m going to do in terms of clay," he said.

Elsewhere, Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia have been ousted from women’s doubles.

The No. 4 Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova toppled No. 6 Dabrowski and Ostapenko 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

It’s the second time in three years that Dabrowski has reached the quarters of women’s doubles in Melbourne only to come up just short.

The 27-year-old from Ottawa isn’t finished at the Grand Slam, however.

Dabrowski is still alive in the mixed doubles with partner Henri Kontinen of Finland. The No. 3 seeds beat Australia’s Matthew Ebden and Jessica Moore 7-5, 7-6 (5) in a second-round match on Tuesday.

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