LONDON • Less than two weeks after pulling out of the Paris Masters semi-finals with a thigh injury, Milos Raonic reached the last four at the ATP World Tour Finals and is close to breaking into the top three of the men's tennis rankings.
His 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory over Austrian Dominic Thiem on Thursday night saw him finish second in the Ivan Lendl Group behind Novak Djokovic, who won all three of his matches at the O2 Arena.
Raonic will next meet world No. 1 Andy Murray, the man he was supposed to play in the last four in Paris, for a place in the final providing the Briton beat Swiss Stan Wawrinka in last night's 10pm (Singapore time) match to seal top spot in the John McEnroe Group.
"I've played Andy many times this year," said Raonic, who won 86 per cent of his first-serve points against Thiem, collected 13 aces and did not face a break point. "I haven't gotten the better of him.
"The one thing I might have is how much he has on his shoulders right now, a lot of consecutive matches, and what he's playing for," he added, in reference to Murray aiming to end the year as world No. 1. "I have to try to do my best to accentuate that as much as possible in my own favour so I can really get the most out of myself and hopefully be able to get on top of him for once this year."
Murray has an 8-3 win-loss record against Raonic, who has been beaten in all their five encounters this season. That includes two finals at the Queen's Club and Wimbledon in summer.
The 25-year-old big-serving Canadian also has a target to aim for as he looks to climb from fourth to third in the rankings.
"It's very big for me. I had a very big goal of wanting to win my first slam this year. I came up short on that," said Raonic. "That was what I had for myself as the biggest motivator after the US Open."
Japan's Kei Nishikori, the world No. 5, was also due on court last night to play Marin Cilic.
Nishikori could yet win the group if he beats Cilic and Murray loses to Wawrinka in the earlier match.
ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS
Singles s-finals: StarHub Ch201, 10pm & tomorrow, 4am