Racket-smashing Djokovic reaches Cincinnati semifinals vs Cilic
MASON, Ohio — Novak Djokovic destroyed a racket to get on track and took another step toward the title that has eluded him.
Enraged by his poor play in the opening set, Djokovic slammed his racket on the court and rallied for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Milos Raonic on Friday night to reach the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open, the only ATP Masters event he has yet to win.
After his passing shot finished the 2-hour, 30-minute match, Djokovic led the crowd in cheers and pumped his fist, ending a long day with an impromptu celebration. He beat defending champion Grigor Dimitrov a few hours earlier, completing a match suspended overnight because of rain and returned a few hours later to play a rested opponent.
“Quite a roller coaster, to be honest,” he said.
Djokovic has reached the finals in Cincinnati five times and lost every time. He’s trying to become the first to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 championships.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I have plenty of motivation. I’ve put myself in a good position in the semifinals.”
He’ll face Marin Cilic, who won twice Friday to reach the semifinals. He beat Karen Khachanov in three sets, completing a suspended match, and got a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Pablo Carreno Busta, who was playing his only match of the day.
Several days of rain turned the quarterfinals into an endurance test. Six men’s and three women’s singles matches were held over from Thursday because of rain.
Roger Federer and Simona Halep made quick work of their rain-delayed matches Friday afternoon and advanced to the quarterfinals, facing the daunting challenge of playing a few hours later in humid conditions.
Federer — the top player left in the men’s bracket after No. 1 Rafael Nadal withdrew to get some rest — needed only 72 minutes to beat Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 7-6 (6), leaving him on course for yet another Cincinnati title. He’s won a record seven despite missing the tournament the last two years because of injury.
Then, it was off for a little rest before an evening match against fellow Swiss player Stan Wawrinka, who advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Marton Fucsovics.
“Waiting around all day and hardly seeing any tennis obviously is never fun for the tournament and the fans,” Federer said. “So we’re happy that the tournament is back underway. Today I tried to really focus on just the one match, not thinking that there is possibly going to be two.”
On the women’s side, the top-ranked Halep beat Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 6-4 early Friday afternoon to reach the quarterfinals, then returned and knocked off Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-1, raising both arms in triumph at the end of her long day featuring two full matches.
Halep has faced the most challenges from the rain, with one match suspended overnight Wednesday and then her third-round match held over for a day as well.
“I hope it’s not going to happen again,” Halep said. “I will not complain, but it was a tough day.”
Barty, who lost to Halep in last week’s Rogers Cup semifinals in Montreal, committed 32 unforced errors to Halep’s 17. Halep is seeking her first Cincinnati championship after losing in the finals last year and 2015.
In a match between rested players, Petra Kvitova beat Elise Mertens 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to reach the semifinals.
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