Raonic edges Wawrinka in four tiebreakers at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Already up a set, Stan Wawrinka was just two points away from taking the second in his Australian Open match against Milos Raonic. Couldn’t do it.

About an hour later, 2014 champion Wawrinka was a single point from grabbing the third set. Denied again.

And another hour after that, Wawrinka was two points from seizing the fourth to force a fifth. Nope, not on this afternoon.

Wawrinka kept coming oh-so-close, and Raonic kept hanging in there and toughing out the most important moments along the way to a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (11), 7-6 (5) victory Thursday that put the 16th-seeded Canadian into the third round at Melbourne Park for the eighth time in nine appearances.

“It feels like 4 hours passed by in about 15 minutes. … The adrenaline takes over,” said Raonic, the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2016. “I was very fortunate to stay alive in that fourth set.”

The match was interrupted for about a half-hour while the roof at Rod Laver Arena was shut because of rain at 4-all in the third set.

Raonic thought that helped him quite a bit.

“I do a little bit better indoors than outdoors,” he said, “so thank you for raining up there.”

Raonic delivered 39 aces, part of an impressive ratio of 84 total winners to only 44 unforced errors.

This was a matchup probably better suited to the second week than the second round of a Grand Slam tournament, given both men’s credentials. But Wawrinka, a three-time major champion once ranked as high as No. 3, dropped out of the top 250 last season, when he had surgery on his left knee.

His signature one-handed backhand is as dangerous as ever – he had a 16-2 edge in winners on that shot Thursday – and he hit 28 aces of his own. But as even as the match was in many respects – Raonic only won two more points overall, 163-161 – Wawrinka couldn’t come through when he really needed to.

Raonic had plenty to do with that, of course, including in the third-set tiebreaker, when he served his way out of trouble.

Wawrinka’s three set points there came at 6-5, when Raonic delivered a serve at 129 mph (208 kph) followed by a forehand volley winner; at 8-7, when Raonic’s 125 mph (201 kph) serve drew a missed return; and at 10-9, when an ace at 132 mph (213 kph) did the trick. A 123 mph (198 kph) service winner gave Raonic that set.

In the last tiebreaker, Wawrinka was up 5-4 before Raonic closed with three consecutive points to avoid heading to a fifth set.

In other men’s action on Day 4, 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori withstood 59 aces from 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic en route to a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (7) victory.

“That’s almost my one-year aces (total),” Nishikori joked. “Never easy. Kind of frustrating if you can’t get the serve like three in a row.”

Actually, 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Karlovic – who holds the Australian Open record of 75 aces in a match – got to six aces in a row at the end of the fourth set.

Still, the No. 8-seeded Nishikori moved on, as did No. 11 Borna Coric and No. 12 Fabio Fognini.

Winners in the women’s draw included reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, past U.S. Open runners-up Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys, No. 27-seeded Camila Giorgi and No. 28 Hsieh Su-Wei.

Scheduled for action later Wednesday were both Williams sisters and No. 1 seeds Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic.