Raonic downs Murray to reach Indian Wells quarters
Milos Raonic of Canada hits a return to Andy Murray of Great Britain during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 12, 2014 in Indian Wells, California - by Stephen Dunn
Raonic, seeded 10th, downed Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to line up a quarter-final clash with giant-killer Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The 28th-seeded Ukrainian avoided any letdown in the wake of his third-round upset of world number one Rafael Nadal, powering past 13th-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4.
Second-seeded Novak Djokovic, four-time Indian Wells champion Roger Federer, seeded seventh, and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka were also vying for quarter-final berths on Wednesday.
Raonic, ranked 11th in the world, wasn't surprised to find himself facing world number 31 Dolgopolov from a quarter of the draw that included both Nadal and Murray.
The 23-year-old Canadian with the booming serve said Wawrinka's Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne, where he beat both Djokovic and Nadal, had shown players like himself and Dolgopolov that the game's biggest names -- Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray -- were indeed beatable.
"I think everybody sort of in that top-10 range, also a little bit outside trying to break through, took a deep breath and said, 'Why can't that be me?'" Raonic said.
That kind of confidence stood him in good stead when he surrendered an early break to Murray in the third set.
Murray, who claimed his second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year, has yet to reach a final since having back surgery in September.
But he was at a loss to explain a sudden drop in his level after he had taken the lead in the third set. He was immediately broken to love, and Raonic broke him again for a 4-2 lead that he wouldn't surrender.
"I think there was mistakes that he made that he wouldn't have liked to make," Raonic said. "I think his mistakes were critical that he made in that first break I got.
"But then I felt like I sort of got going a bit more after that. I sort of picked it up for the rest of the set."
Murray saved one match point as he held for 5-3 in the third, but Raonic was never threatened as he served it out with a game that included two of his 15 aces and a crisp forehand winner on match point.
Still riding high after his triumph over Nadal, Dolgopolov lost just five points on his own serve in the opening set against Fognini, breaking the Italian in the second and eighth games.
Dolgopolov saved all three break points he faced -- all in the seventh game of the second set, and a demoralized Fognini delivered three double faults to be broken in the final game.
In another early match, Latvia's Ernests Gulbis defeated Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7/0), 4-6, 6-2 in a testy encounter.