Canadian No 1 Milos Raonic advanced to his second consecutive Indian Wells semi-final on Thursday with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The meeting under the lights on the main stadium court was a contrast in styles with the hard-serving Raonic overpowering the athleticism of Monfils.
“I am happy with the way I competed, and at the end of the day what counts the most is I took care of my serve,” Raonic said.
Raonic moves on to the semis where he will face world number 18 David Goffin, who surprised 10th seeded Croatian Marin Cilic on Thursday 7-6 (4), 6-2.
The final two quarterfinals are on Friday with Rafael Nadal squaring off against Kei Nishikori, and world number one Novak Djokovic battling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Raonic, who just returned from a six-week layoff due to a torn thigh muscle, was unable to play in the Davis Cup earlier this month when Canada lost 5-0 to France.
Raonic also beat Monfils in the quarterfinals in January at the Australian Open before losing in the semis to Andy Murray, while feeling the effects of the thigh injury.
But there was no gloating from Raonic on Thursday when asked if this was revenge for France’s rout over Canada at the Davis Cup.
“I’m not the guy that holds a grudge. I have one guy across the net that wants something that I want more,” Raonic said. “I really wish I could have been there in Guadeloupe, and competed in that scenario.”
Raonic beat Nadal in a thrilling quarterfinal before losing to Swiss star Roger Federer in the semis last year in Indian Wells.
Raonic is known for dominating opponents with his mighty serve, but he earned the victory Thursday by hitting just seven aces.
He credits his coach, former No 1 Carlos Moya, with helping him make the necessary changes to his game that have enabled him to become a more complete player.
Raonic said he resisted change at the beginning. “I incorporate, I learn, and I take a very strict discipline about really making it better and seeing if it can help me,” Raonic said. “I was a little bit stubborn about it [serve]. Who doesn’t want a free point, right?. The only thing I’m stubborn with is the serve. I think I know pretty good about my serve. Other than that, I think I’m one of the most open guys.”
Goffin toppled Cilic to become the first Belgian male to reach the semi-finals.
The 25-year-old Goffin saved four set points in the 12th game of the first set before taking it in a tiebreaker.
Goffin then breezed through the second set, finishing with seven aces overall in the 97-minute match at Indian Wells, one of the biggest events on the ATP and WTA calendar outside of the four Grand Slams.
Goffin also defeated Cilic on a clay court in Belgium during the Davis Cup first round on March 6.
Goffin’s win over Cilic comes less than 24 hours after he snapped a 14-match losing streak against top-10 players with a fourth-round shocker over French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
“Even if it’s Stan or even if it’s Marin, I have to do my job,” said the soft-spoken Belgian. “I can compete really well here..I beat Marin .... so it’s almost like I beat a top 10 today. For the future, it gives me a lot of confidence.”