Raonic back into semifinals at Indian Wells

Milos Raonic knocks off Gael Monfils in straight sets in the BNP Paribas Open, to advance to the semi-finals.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Milos Raonic is determined not to let the injuries that derailed his 2015 season drag him down again.

The Canadian tennis star advanced to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open with a 7-5, 6-3 win over France’s Gael Monfils on Thursday. It’s Raonic’s third straight win over a top-20 opponent, and he’s serving notice that he is over the frustrating adductor injury that kept him out of several tournaments.

"I’m surprised with how well my comeback has gone," he said. "I did as much as I could to prepare, I’m grateful I made the most of my opportunities this week.

"But there’s still a lot more tennis to be played and hopefully I can continue doing that."

As expected, Raonic’s serve was a big factor in helping beat Monfils for the second time this year. He fired seven aces past the Frenchman, but more importantly didn’t commit a double fault. He had five in his fourth-round win Wednesday over Radek Stepanek.

"I’ve got to be very happy with how I competed today," Raonic said. "I dealt with the situation well and gave myself lot of opportunities.

"And I did what counted the most — I took care of my serve."

Raonic, ranked 12th, started off the season in fine form, winning the Brisbane Open and reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, beating Monfils in the quarters at Melbourne.

But he suffered an adductor tear in his Australian Open semifinal loss to Andy Murray and missed tournaments in Delray Beach, Fla., and Acapulco, as well as Canada’s Davis Cup tie against France. The injury was troubling after he missed much of the 2015 season, including the French Open, with nagging ailments.

Raonic will next play David Goffin, who defeated Marin Cilic 7-6 (4), 6-4 to reach the semifinals, the best result so far of the Belgian’s career.

Raonic has only faced Goffin twice , with the Belgian upsetting Raonic on the Canadian’s favoured hardcourt surface at Basel, Switzerland in 2014. Up until this tournament that was Goffin’s only win over a top-10 player.

The two also met in the first round of the 2011 Australian Open, with Raonic advancing in a walkover.

"Against Goffin, I need to take care of my serve and keep the game plan simple," Raonic said.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and his family took in the game from Raonic’s player box.

"He’s helped me in so many aspects, he’s been like an adviser to me, his family have been so welcoming to me," Raonic said. "It’s great to have them here."

Cilic was the second higher seeded player to lose to 15th-seeded Goffin, who upset No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round. Cilic lost to Goffin nearly two weeks ago on clay in Belgium during first-round Davis Cup play.

Goffin needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat Wawrinka after the 25-year-old Belgian served for the match at 5-3 in the second and third sets. The 10th-seeded Cilic fell to 0-8 in quarter-finals at Masters 1000 events.

Goffin, a slender five-foot-11, withstood the power of Cilic, who is 6-6 and outweighs Goffin by 46 pounds.

"I knew that on my serve I had to battle to win every service game because sometimes he can serve bombs and in ten seconds can win his games," said Goffin, who fell down at 5-4 in the first set.

"It was just bad for me, but at the end I stayed focused in the tiebreak. It was the key of the match to win the first set and be more relaxed in the second to play much better."

Another bigger and taller opponent awaits Goffin in the six-foot-five Raonic.

"It’s good in tennis that you don’t have to be big or a tall guy to be good. Otherwise I had no chance to get in the top 20," said Goffin, who is ranked 18th. "Maybe I’m quicker. I can take the ball earlier than a big guy. Of course I don’t have a big serve. I have other weapons. That’s why tennis is a nice sport."

Victoria Azarenka shut out Magdalena Rybarikova 6-0, 6-0 in 67 minutes to reach the women’s semifinals. She will play Karolina Pliskova, who beat 18-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in an hour.

Azarenka broke Rybarikova six times and connected on 60 per cent of her first serves. Rybarikova had 25 unforced errors and just nine winners. After losing the first set, she took a medical timeout to have her upper thigh taped heavily.

Azarenka has dropped one set in four matches so far; When she won Indian Wells in 2012 she also dropped just one set.

Pliskova had 30 winners and 10 unforced errors. She fired nine aces and won all six of her points at net.

About an hour later, Pliskova teamed with Julia Goerges to reach the doubles final, defeating Sara Errani and Oksana Kalashnikova 6-4, 6-3.

"(I’m) happy also for the doubles (win), because it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world," Pliskova said. "It’s my first biggest final in the doubles, and especially happy to be there with my partner Julia."

Pliskova ended last year at a career-high No. 11 in the WTA rankings. Her semifinal singles showing here is her first at a Premier Mandatory event.

"I played some good tennis this week, and especially there is Miami, and so I have chances to go and improve the ranking and get close to top 10 again," she said.

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