Big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada did not dish out his best tennis today, but still he managed to book his place in the semifinals of the Chennai Open by defeating Israel's Dudi Sela in straight sets.
Fourth seed Raonic, the recipient of ATP Newcomer Award for 2011, took 90 minutes to get the better of world ranked 83rd, Sela 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the quarterfinal of the USD 450,000 event.
Raonic, who jumped 131 places to a career-high 25 last year, will now face second seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain, a 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 winner over Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita.
Against Sela, the young Canadian was not at his usual best. Even though Raonic's strong point, his service was not up to the mark today, it was enough for him to get past his Israeli opponent.
As a matter of fact, Sela was serving better than Raonic in both the sets but in the end the Canadian's ability to come up with aces on crucial points made the difference. In all, Raonic fired 15 aces in the match.
The first set was a hard-fought affair as Sela matched Raonic stroke-for-stroke, but the Israeli failed to capitalise on a break point cum set point at 6-all, which brought the tie-breaker into action.
In the tie-breaker it was all Raonic as riding on his booming serve, the Canadian first took a 4-0 lead and then closed out the set at 7-4.
In the second, Raonic had some anxious moments in the ninth game when Sela got to break points but he failed on both occasion.
The 21-year-old Raonic then broke Sela in the sixth game of the second set to go up 5-2 with a thundering ace. Raonic, who made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open last year, drew curtains to the encounter with two more aces in the final game.
Meanwhile, Almagro, a three-time winner on the tour last year, had to dig deep against the Japanese qualifier. The Spaniard dropped the first set and survived the second by a whisker.
However, a timely break in the final set was all the second seed needed to proceed to the last four.
Almagro needed four match points in a tight 10th game, as Sugita refused to yield. However, an error from the Japanese was enough to ensure a last four place for the Spaniard.
Wawrinka crashes out
Meanwhile, defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland crashed out, beaten in straight sets by Japanese qualifier Go Soeda.
Wawrinka, playing only his second game of the season having earned a first round bye, lost 4-6, 4-6 to 27-year old Soeda.
In a match that lasted just over 100 minutes, the Swiss, ranked 17 in the world, looked off colour and rusty and Soeda capitalised on the opportunity as the Chennai Open yet again proved to be a quagmire for defending champions.
In the 17 editions played so far, only Spaniard Carlos Moya and Croat Marin Celic have successfully defended their