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Wednesday, 16 November 2016 09:26 AM GMT
ATP Finals Day 3: Djokovic outlasts Raonic in thriller rounds up the action from Day 3 at the ATP World Tour Finals. READ MORE

Novak Djokovic d. Milos Raonic 7-6(6), 7-6(5)

“Very few points separated us,” admitted Djokovic after his nail-biting triumph over Milos Raonic. “It could have gone either way.”

Indeed, Raonic did just about everything necessary to win the first set against the Serbian. Raonic did just about everything necessary to win the second, too. He also hit 42 winners to 11 unforced errors, fired down 14 aces and forced seven break point opportunities.

But as is so often the case with Djokovic, matches that “could” go either way end up going his, and on the few points that separated the duo, Djokovic delivered while Raonic faltered. 

In the first set tiebreaker, Djokovic forced his first set point with a sumptuous backhand lob, which was met with his customary seal of approval: the Djokovic ‘roar’. Raonic saved it with a series of nerveless forehands, but then surrendered the set courtesy of a forehand error and a double fault.

A similarly decisive situation arose with Raonic 6-5 up in the second set. Having broken back twice, Raonic found himself at set point, but snatched at a forehand, dumping it into the net. Djokovic forced a second tiebreak, and produced an instinctive moment of genius at 4-5 down, coming up with a clutch half-volley to end a 20-shot rally.

He wouldn’t lose another point, and the Serbian went on to record his eighth consecutive win against Raonic, in turn sealing his passage to the semi-finals.

“I should have done my job earlier, to be honest,” said Djokovic, who was evidently frustrated at being broken twice in the second set.

“All in all, two tie-breaks against a big server is a great win and a great confidence boost.

“This definitely can serve as a great wind in the back for the matches to come.”

Verdict: Raonic, who remains one of the more philosophical players on the Tour, produced the most accurate summation of Tuesday night's proceedings.

"If I should have won it, I probably would have," said the Canadian. "I could have won it. I gave myself some chances there. He played well in most of those chances.”

Raonic certainly produced a performance worthy of his first victory over Djokovic, but the Serbian did what he has failed to do in recent months: find a way to win. The world No.2 seems to be playing himself into form, and the relinquishing of his No.1 ranking looks to have galvanised him at a time when he most needed it. Raonic, meanwhile, now faces a de facto quarter-final against Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals.

Dominic Thiem d. Gael Monfils 6-3, 1-6, 6-4

It was no surprise that the most unpredictable match of the tournament so far involved Gael Monfils.

The Frenchman lost the first set in 26 minutes, but had shown no significant signs of physical discomfort until he pulled up at 5-3 down, surrendering the opener to love.

At that point, David Goffin - the first alternate - must have been mentally preparing to make his o2 debut against Novak Djokovic on Thursday.

But, in-keeping with his penchant for the unexpected, the hampered Monfils then won the next set 6-1, sprinkling proceedings with his own particular brand of stardust. Thiem, by comparison, was now in freefall, and thoughts turned to his collapse in the second and third sets against Djokovic on Sunday afternoon.

As it was, the third set was a tight affair that could have gone either way, with both players looking for their first ever win at the World Tour Finals. Monfils, though, undid all his hard work by hitting three double faults and an error in the final game, and as he departed it was hard to shake the feeling that it was the last we’ll see of him on a court in 2016.

"It was a tough one," said Monfils, who also admitted that he would decide whether or not to play his final rubber against Djokovic in the coming hours.

"Dominic was better than me. I think I didn’t play a great match, but I gave everything I had."

Verdict: A close match that was ultimately decided by Monfils' frailty in the decisive moment. The Frenchman cannot now reach the semi-finals, but Thiem remains alive.

This was the Austrian's 81st match of the year, and his victory makes him the youngest player to win a match at the ATP World Tour Finals since a 21-year-old Juan Martin del Potro beat Fernando Verdasco in 2009. Thiem's win also moved him up to No.8 in the world, and while he faces a tough ask against Raonic, a semi-final berth would further mark him out as a potential Grand Slam winner.

Best shot

Another shot of the week contender from Gael Monfils...

Best quote

"I never felt unbeatable and I never will. It's not my mindset." - Novak Djokovic

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