BRISBANE • As Rafael Nadal's comeback hit a speed bump, Roger Federer's gained momentum.
Defending champion Milos Raonic beat former world No. 1 Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to reach the Brisbane International semi-finals.
The big-serving Canadian blasted 50 winners, including 23 aces, to overcome the Spaniard and set up a semi-final showdown with Grigor Dimitrov.
Returning from a wrist injury, Nadal took the first set. But momentum swung at 3-3 in the second, when Raonic claimed four straight games, before capitalising on an early break in the decider to serve out the match.
"It was a great match tonight and I'm very happy with myself, how I competed against such a great player and competitor as Rafa," the world No. 3 said.
He fired down 19 more aces than the world No. 9.
Nadal, returning to the Tour this week after injury, struck 19 winners as he continued his preparations for this month's Australian Open.
"He was more aggressive than me... but I take the positive. It was a small difference," said the 14-time Grand Slam winner, who added former world No. 1 Carlos Moya to his coaching team last month as he seeks to revive his career following a spate of injuries.
In Perth yesterday, 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer produced a near flawless display to beat Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-4 at the mixed-team Hopman Cup.
The Hopman Cup is the 35-year-old's first tournament since a six-month layoff due to knee and back injuries. Federer entered 2017 ranked 16th - his lowest placing since 2001 - but in brushing aside France's Gasquet, showed he was ready to be a serious contender at the Australian Open.
He barely missed a ground stroke, getting his first break of serve in the fourth game of the match and dominating proceedings from that point on.
He also sent down 11 aces in nine service games.
Even Federer was stunned by his own form.
"Today was great, I started to feel the ball better and better and move better," said the Swiss. "I am surprised how well I am playing already. I couldn't be more happy right now."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE