ATP Cincinnati: Murray headlines night’s semi-finals
By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati
- Marin Cilic  v Grigor Dimitrov
- Andy Murray  v Milos Raonic 
CINCINNATI, USA – Andy Murray clashes with Milos Raonic for the fifth time this year as he targets a shot at his third Cincinnati title, with Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov in the last night match.
Marin Cilic  v Grigor Dimitrov – H2H: Cilic leads 2-1
Dimitrov dashed the hopes of the new men’s US No. 1 Steve Johnson from coasting to more post Olympic success to cap his week of ending up as the new USA men’s No. 1.
After a great run through the tournament which saw the home-crowd favourite put out seventh seed Jo Wilfred Tsonga, he seemed very much out of answers as Dimitrov showed more flashes of the talent we all thought he had.
Perhaps the new partnership with Dani Vallverdu was already paying dividends. Vallverdu is an excellent scout and tactician, and it is almost like Dimitrov has to go back to basics. Dare we say it, even approach his tennis with a new found element of discipline.
Dimitrov summed it up as ‘simplicity’, saying in his post match press conference:
“I’m just going to try to do what I’ve been doing this week: focus on the tennis side and just taking care of whatever is in front of me. Just focus is entirely on myself now and on tennis. I’ve worked a lot, but still, there is just another match for me.”
Whatever it is, it has paid dividends already this week after a shockingly disappointing performance against Cilic in Rio.
Cilic coasted through his semi-final against a strapped up Borna Coric in an all Croatian affair. And as is his want, he has floated largely un-noticed through the draw.
In fact the most attention that Cilic drew throughout the tournament was that of how he would attack Tomas Berdych, under the tutelage of Cilic’s former coach Goran Ivanisevic.
Cilic and Dimitrov encounters have yet to go the distance, but have been largely close, with the exception of the first set drubbing the Croatian dealt him at the Olympics.
Cilic said: “Over there was ultra slow court, so it’s going to be obviously very different here. It’s a semis and the court here is really fast. Grigor, when he’s on his shots, he can produce great, great tennis.
“Obviously with his attacking style of game he’s always trying to mix up with his backhand slice and even coming to the net sometimes. Sort of his game is pretty much athletic.
“I just have to keep myself in my own game, try to serve well as I was serving these last few matches here, and overall I felt that I was hitting ball well.”
For all our despairing about Dimitrov’s lack of relevance as the former ATP Generation ‘Lost Boys’ have overtaken him, confidence will come with a good run of wins. The sometimes ungainly looking Cilic is an extremely clean hitter, with a big serve, but not always necessarily consistent.
Perhaps in this regard, Dimitrov has a little more consistency in that regard, but has struggled to stay the course.
Prediction: Cilic in three sets.
Andy Murray  v Milos Raonic  – H2H: Murray leads 7-3
Raonic went back to school to study up on how one of the ATP Next Generation was shaping up as he came through a straight sets win over Dominic Thiem, 6-3 6-4.
In a tight match decided by just a single break Raonic’s serve was looking in very fine form, and he will feel he will need the chance to grab free points where he can as he comes up against Murray for the fifth time just this year.
The Canadian is looking to snap a six match losing streak against the World No. 2 and he must wonder how much closer he could be to getting a breakthrough. He had Murray decidedly on the ropes in the Australian Open before succumbing to injury.
He lost from a set and a break up in the Queen’s final, and of course lost the Wimbledon final – his first Slam final – as Murray claimed his second Wimbledon title.
Looking ahead to the semi-final, Raonic said: “Those kind of things are very short-lived in tennis. Things go on and you forget about those things. Obviously going to be some things I am going to want to do better than I did about a month ago, but there are going to be some things I’m going to take away and try to execute a little bit better and use that I did well.
“I think there are a lot of discussions that we’ve had with my team about situations in that final that I could have dealt with better. I’m definitely going to try to enforce those things, because these are the moments that I can really work on those things, incorporate those things, and hopefully overcome those things.”
Murray continued to struggle physically with the adjustment between courts, but played down the issues. He had the number of Bernard Tomic who has never managed to take a set off Murray, breaking him twice to win 6-4 6-4.
He has faced the big serving Canadian four times already this year, and is currently on a six-match winning streak against him. Yet what stands out is the caliber of the matches they have played in 2016.
Murray said, after his match: “Obviously on the grass and actually Queen’s was a big win because down a set and a break, he hadn’t been broken the whole event and I managed to turn that one around.
“Wimbledon I think was a new experience for him – I have been in that position a few more times, and I think that helped me, but in a lot of the matches we’ve played, it does come down to a few key moments, few break points which are rare against him. You know if I play them well, I give myself a good chance to win.”
His returning will be key, especially given Raonic’s serving strike rate this tournament. Hopefully the physical adjustment is coming along – he admitted to feeling a little fatigue, and Murray’s movement will be vital to pull Raonic out of his comfort zone.
While Raonic plays down the more significant losses this year, there is no doubt another loss might get Murray deeper into his head a little as they head into the final preparations for New York.
Then again the faster courts might just give Raonic enough free reign to tie up a struggling Murray.
Prediction: Murray in thee sets.
Murray and Raonic start the night session, not before 7pm (Midnight BST, Sunday) followed by Cilic v Dimitrov.
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