Same opponent, same old story for Milos Raonic but despite a sixth defeat of the year by Andy Murray at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday the Canadian underlined he will be a player to fear in 2017.
Raonic’s heartbreaking 5-7 7-6 (5) 7-6 (9) semi-final loss made it a hat-trick of reverses in London alone this year against Murray, following two in quick succession at the Queen’s Club and Wimbledon finals.
This one was particularly galling as he frequently outplayed the world number one and had a match point in the final-set tiebreak before bowing out after three hours 38 minutes of toe-to-toe combat against the home favourite.
“I have to be proud I finished the year with giving it every ounce of energy I had. I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like crap tomorrow,” said Raonic who is still without a career win against a resident world number one.
“But I’ll look back at 2016 with a lot of pride,” he told reporters.
The 25-year-old, who this year became the first Canadian man to reach a grand slam final, pushed Novak Djokovic hard in a fiercely-contested match earlier this week and will finish the year at a career-high third in the rankings providing Kei Nishikori does not win the title here.
With serial major winners Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal starting to slide, Raonic has emerged as the man most likely to begin his grand slam collection in 2017 as long as the injuries that have nagged his progress stay away.
“The goal is going to be to continue to stay healthy. That’s the one thing that’s been sort of my kryptonite,” he said.
“Rather than making momentum and progress I can sometimes take myself two steps back. I sort of have to reset myself, whether that be through injuries or other issues.”
One thing he proved on Saturday was his fighting spirit. Twice he broke Murray’s serve to stay alive in the decider and he saved three match points before the weary Scot finally prevailed.
“The thing I’ll probably be most proud of when I sit down and talk with my coaches is just the way I kept fighting through,” he said.
“I’ll probably feel like crap for the next few days but at least mentally I’ll be proud of the way things finished. That was the best match I’ve ever competed.”