Milos Raonic didn’t want to be the guy who turned lucky loser Miomir Kecmanovic into a big winner in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open.
Kecmanovic had enjoyed a remarkable run of good fortune here. The 19-year-old Serb lost his second qualifying match but got a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser after three injured players withdrew; he had a first-round bye, won two matches, and had an easy time in the fourth round when Yoshihito Nishioka retired because of a back problem.
But Canada’s Raonic, seeded No. 13, didn’t take anything for granted when he faced Kecmanovic on Thursday.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Raonic said. “I knew he had nothing to lose, and I had to be really disciplined with myself, and I’m happy I was able to follow through.”
Although he didn’t serve as well as he’d hoped, Raonic reeled off 13 aces in a 6-3, 6-4 victory and advanced to the semifinals. His opponent will be No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who advanced when Gael Monfils withdrew because of a left Achilles injury shortly before their scheduled quarterfinal Thursday night.
A downcast Monfils addressed the crowd: “Tonight I tried to hit a little but I cannot compete,” the popular Frenchman said. “I’m sorry.”
He later said he had felt discomfort in the Achilles for several days and had been treating it but an ultrasound showed an inflammation that left him no choice but to withdraw.
“Very disappointing, to be honest now,” he said, “because I was playing great, playing great tennis, feeling strong.”
Tournament officials, eager to pacify a crowd that had expected to see a match, asked Thiem to return. He conducted a practice on Court 1 with one of his coaches, Nicolas Massu, a singles and doubles Olympic gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Games.
“Of course, it’s not fun,” Thiem said of the way he advanced. “I think it would have been a fun match.”
Thiem leads their head-to-head series 4-0 and also has now advanced twice by walkover because of withdrawals by Monfils. In addition Monfils has advanced via walkover once, after Thiem withdrew before they were to face each other at Doha in 2018.
Raonic took control against Kecmanovic by breaking the teenager’s serve in the fourth game. Known for his big serve, Raonic has been trying to supplement his game with some backhand slices and drop shots and was able to pull off a few against Kecmanovic.
“I did a lot of things well. I didn’t serve well, I don’t think, today,” said Raonic, whose first serve percentage was 54%. “But even when I was hitting the spots, I wasn’t hitting them that well. That’s something I’m going to spend a little bit more time on [Friday]. I think that can get better.
“But there’s other things I’m doing well, for sure. As soon as I had a chance on the first forehand, I was able to find my way to be the one dictating the point. And I put a lot of returns in and gave myself a chance there. And as soon as I had the first look to get ahead, I was pretty efficient at that.”
Raonic has a 2-0 career edge over Thiem. Both matches took place in 2016, on hard courts.
“With Dominic, you know, you can’t give him too much time,” Raonic said. “He can do a lot of good things, get ahead in the point, and start to run you around a lot if he has time to get into a point and work it.”
Friday’s featured matches
All matches at Stadium 1
Hubert Hurkacz vs. Roger Federer, 11 a.m.
Not before 1:30 pm.
Karen Khachanov vs. Rafael Nadal
Not before 6:30 p.m.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Elina Svitolina
Not before 9 p.m.