By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A gallant Milos Raonic was left heartbroken by his Australian Open semi-final loss to Andy Murray on Friday, having pushed the Scot to his limits before a leg injury took the game out of his hands.
The 13th seed played majestically for much of the four-hour classic at Rod Laver Arena but strained an adductor muscle midway through the third set and eventually folded 4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2.
He had a medical time-out early in the fourth set and was worked on by a trainer at changes of ends.
The frustration ultimately told when he smashed his racquet in dismay after being broken early in the fifth set.
“It’s unfortunate, probably the most heartbroken I felt on court but that’s what it is,” the downcast 25-year-old told reporters, his eyes red and voice cracking.
“I think maybe that’s why I sort of lashed out the way I did after the start of the fifth set.
“I guess that was the whole frustration of everything getting out.”
Having had the world number two on the ropes for much of the match would have only added to Raonic’s disappointment.
The first Canadian man to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, the Carlos Moya-coached Raonic underlined his claim as one of the top young talents in the game by mowing through a tough draw and upsetting 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round.
It was of little consolation for the 25-year-old, however, who was left on the sidelines for much of last season due to a string of injuries.
“I’m in a much better state (than) where I was 18 months ago when I was in my first semi-final of a grand slam,” said Raonic, the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“If this didn’t happen 20 minutes ago, there’s a lot more positive to take from the situation than there is negative by magnitudes.
“With the way I’ve sort of started off this year after the difficulties I had, whatever it was, three months ago, not finishing the year, many other aspects, not knowing where I stood, this was the most ideal way to start.
“You can’t take away that sort of hurt from the way the story played out today.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom, editing by Pritha Sarkar)