Western and Southern Open 2016: Men’s Semifinals

Murray d. Raonic, 6-3, 6-3

In a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon final, Andy Murray won this one by an even easier margin, and, surprisingly, without reaching a tiebreak. Looking more energetic than he did in last night’s quarterfinal, Murray didn’t have to do much to draw errors from Raonic tonight. Murray did mix up his play, with some volleying, and drew Raonic into the net with a few short balls as well. But, a windy night and Murray’s variety exposed Raonic’s difficulty making the small adjustments necessary to hit his groundstrokes. But, the real difference was the serve — Murray faced three break points and saved them all, while Raonic only saved one of four, and only won 29% of his second serve points.

It was a good win for Murray, who seems to have gained momentum after arriving here in Cincinnati worn out from his gold medal run in Rio. It’s hard not to pick him to win on Sunday, both based on form and the fact that he will likely be asleep before his opponent finishes his match. As for Raonic, his improved movement was visible in the rallies, but he’s still got some way to go if he wants to win these kinds of matches.

Cilic d. Dimitrov, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5

There was a lot on the line in this semi-final — a rare chance to reach a Masters 1000 final, significant ranking points, and momentum. It’s been a strange season for Cilic — a number of early round losses, and then when he finally made a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals, it ended with a demoralizing 5 set loss to Roger Federer after being up two sets to love.

As for Dimitrov, his struggles are well documented: losing 6 matches in a row, having his ranking drop from a career high of 8 to 34, and risking being defaulted in the Istanbul final after a racquet breaking outburst at 0-5 down in the final set. He has had an

encouraging run this week in Cincinnati, notably notching a win over Stan Wawrinka in the third round. He started this one well, taking the first set 6-4, by taking advantage of Cilic’s forehand errors and low service percentage. Cilic, however, continued to hang in there, and capitalized on a loose service game from Dimitrov to go up a break in the second set, which he won, 6-3, somewhere around 12:30am.

Needless to say, being played well after midnight, the third set was as much about survival as performance — with Dimitrov and Cilic trading breaks mid-set, before Cilic broke Dimitrov at 5-6 in the third, and served it out just after 1:30am. Cilic will have a tough road ahead of him in the final against Murray, just over 12 hours from the end of his semifinal, after a match interrupted by a two hour rain delay.

One can’t help but feel for Dimitrov — he looked to have the upper hand for wide stretches of this match, especially in the third set, where he twice was up by a break. He certainly left it all out there, scrambling hard to stay in points, and in the match, relying more on grit than glamorous shots to hang with Cilic. It’s clear that he is making progress, and the ranking boost he will get from his semifinal run will be enough to assure him of a seed in the U.S. Open, which was one of his goals at the start of the week. He is certainly moving in the right direction, but tonight’s loss shows that there is still work to do.