Raonic outlasts Querrey, to face Del Potro in semis
Milos Raonic overcame his frustrations to outlast Sam Querrey and advance to the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 victory on Friday while Juan Martin del Potro found his form late to down Philipp Kohlschreiber 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Clearly unhappy at times with his play, the Canadian Raonic won the final three games of the third set to return to the Indian Wells semis for the third time in four years.
Raonic, 2016 Wimbledon runner-up, broke American Querrey for a 5-3 advantage, then salvaged a tense final game in which Querrey had three break points.
The Canadian's win sets up a semi-final clash with Del Potro on Saturday that will pit power against power.
World number one Roger Federer will meet Borna Coric in the other semi-final on Saturday.
After a slow start to his season following a calf injury last year, Raonic prevailed by serve-volleying and attacking the net against Querrey, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final.
The Canadian won 17 of the first set's final 21 points, including two breaks of serve, to take the set after Querrey had led 5-4.
The American broke twice in the second set before Raonic came through in the third.
"Sometimes they (his emotions) have taken me for a ride, they have cost me matches, but I have also been cost matches by holding it in," Raonic said in a courtside interview.
"So sometimes it is good to get them out and try to express energy in the right way."
Although he fired 17 aces and won 74 percent of his first-service points, the Canadian said he needed to improve.
"I've got to serve better," he said. "That's my best thing and I've got to step up and I've got to do what I do well."
After a sluggish start, Del Potro rediscovered his punishing forehand in the final two sets of his match against Kohlschreiber and let out a loud roar when the German sent the Argentine's serve out on match point.
Both players served well, each putting more than two-thirds of their first serves into play, but Del Potro won 75 percent of his first service points compared to just 65 percent for Kohlschreiber.
"He is a very smart guy, his game is so good and he made me run a lot so my legs are completely tired," the 29-year-old Del Potro said in a courtside interview.
"I got lucky in the end of the match, I played well in the important moments and I'm so glad to be back in the semi-finals."
Del Potro will battle Raonic in the semi-final on Saturday, with the player best able to handle their opponent's booming serve the most likely to prevail.
Raonic has won two of their three head-to-head meetings including a straight sets win in the Delray Beach Open semi-finals last year.
Osaka stuns World No. 1 Halep
Japan's Naomi Osaka made short work of a subdued world number one Simona Halep on Friday, the unseeded 20-year-old racing to a 6-3, 6-0 semi-final victory to set up a surprise BNP Paribas Open final against Daria Kasatkina.
The Russian, also 20, continued her sparkling run of form earlier in the evening when she outlasted American veteran Venus Williams in a three-set slugfest lasting almost three hours.
Osaka's defeat of the top-seeded Halep stood out as the bigger of the two upsets, which played out under the lights on a chilly night in the California desert city of Indian Wells.
The Romanian had won all three of her previous meetings with the emerging Japanese player and looked poised to make a run to reclaim the title she won in 2015, but instead put in a puzzling performance full of uncharacteristic errors and little fight.
The match started as a cagey affair until it reached 3-3 in the opening set before Halep's game unraveled as she coughed up a litany of errors, paving the way for Osaka to reel off the next nine games without much resistance.
"It wasn't easy," Osaka said in a courtside interview. "I was really stressed out the entire time but I am really happy I could end it fast."
Halep offered few excuses for her baffling display but felt that the long wait to get on court had not helped her cause.
"I just didn't feel the ball at all. I was out of the game today. I played okay until 4-3 but then I just went out. I don't know why. I just lost my concentration," she said.
"She was better. She was more prepared and she was ready to play and ready to win the match. I was not."
While Osaka barely broke a sweat in her 64 minute victory, it was a different story for Kasatkina, who emerged the victor after a marathon 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 battle against Williams.
Kasatkina took advantage of a sub-par serving night from the more powerful Williams as the match progressed, forcing long rallies that ultimately wore her 37-year-old opponent down over the course of the contest.
The Russian, who fought back after being two points away from losing in the contest in the third set, dropped her racquet and put her hands on her head in shock after Williams sent a backhand into the net on match point.
"I'm a bit tired," Kasatkina said after the two hour and 50 minute encounter. "One more to go."
The win extends the Cinderella run for the tournament's 20th seed, who defeated grand slam champions Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber without dropping a set before going the distance to take down Williams.
Williams played an excellent all-around game, mixing bruising groundstrokes with frequent approaches to the net and moving well around the court.
However, she was unable to rely on her big serve at key moments and ended up getting broken seven times.
Kasatkina will have Saturday to recover before facing Osaka for the first time in their fledgling careers on Sunday.
Neither Kasatkina nor Osaka have much experience in big matches with the Japanese player's only career final coming in Tokyo in 2016 and her opponent's lone singles title coming in Charleston last year.