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Thiem vs Raonic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Thiem score first win over Raonic in Indian Wells semifinals?

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 15 Mar 2019
  • Dominic Thiem faces Milos Raonic in the semifinals of the Indian Wells Masters
  • Thiem vs Raonic is live from Indian Wells on Saturday at 11am local/6pm GMT
Dominic Thiem (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Will Milos Raonic make it back to the Indian Wells Masters final, or is it Dominic Thiem’s moment to make a first hard-court Masters 1000 Series final?

French Open finalist Dominic Thiem tries to hold off the missiles of big-serving Milos Raonic and get his first win over the Canadian as they face off in the semifinals of the Indian Wells Masters on Saturday.

Gael Monfils announces his withdrawal from the planned quarterfinal match against Dominic Thiem (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
Not too many people had seventh-seeded Thiem, the Austrian much better known as a clay-courter and who hadn’t had a good start to the season, as reaching the semifinals of the first Masters 1000 Series tournament of 2019 – much less that he’d be joining Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the only players still in the tournament who haven’t dropped a set.

But Thiem did have better results on hard courts towards the end of 2018 than he has before, and he has also hired a new coach – Nicolas Massu – with the explicit intention of trying to transfer his top-level success on clay-court tournaments to hard-court tournaments. Moreover, the slow, high-bouncing hard courts of Indian Wells seem perfect for a player with Thiem’s game – he’s made the quarterfinals here before, in 2017, and has talked about how much he enjoys these conditions.

But it would be foolish to pretend that the draw hasn’t spectacularly opened up for Thiem to reach the final four. To make this Masters 1000 Series semifinal, he has had to beat Jordan Thompson; 27th seed Gilles Simon, against whom he has never lost; and Ivo Karlovic, still an ace machine but also, at the end of the day, a 40-year-old. Plus receiving a walkover from Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals, which definitely helped with the whole not-losing-a-set thing, to say the least.

Thiem is into his fifth Masters 1000 Series semifinal after having got that far at Rome in 2017 and the Paris Masters in 2018, as well as finishing runner-up at the Madrid Masters in 2017-18, and is trying to become the fifteenth active player to have won a title at Masters 1000 Series level.

So, of course, is Milos Raonic, who is into his tenth Masters 1000 Series semifinal and has made the finals of the Canada Masters, Paris Masters and Indian Wells Masters itself in the past.

The last time Raonic made it to the final of a Masters 1000 Series event was in 2016 when he lost the shortest Indian Wells final on record to Novak Djokovic. Since then, he’s gone on to reach a maiden Grand Slam final and been ranked as high as world no. 3 – but he’s also struggled with a couple of years of injuries and issues, dropping as low as world no. 38 before a run to the semifinals at this same tournament 12 months ago helped him start to turn things round.

Milos Raonic (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Raonic played brilliantly at the Australian Open to beat Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev but injury once again played its part in a straight-sets defeat to Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals and his February results were poor. But like Thiem, he has benefited from a soft draw at the Indian Wells Masters, facing Sam Querrey, qualifier Marcos Giron, Jan-Lennard Struff and lucky loser Miomir Kecmanovic, against whom Raonic dropped just four points behind his first serve and saved all three of the break points he faced.

You would think that faster courts would be a more obvious match for a big-serving, aggressive player like Raonic, but his affinity for Indian Wells argues otherwise. The Canadian has talked before about liking the vibe in the California desert and he said after beating Kecmanovic that he’s enjoying the court speed this year, too.

‘I think the conditions are good for me, especially when the sun's out,’ Raonic said. 

‘The court heats up a little bit. There is a good amount of jump on the court. This year it's a little bit slower than the previous years, but it allows me to take a few more swipes at a few more shots, and I can do different things with my serve that I need to get ahead in the point.’

Like Thiem, Raonic also has a new coach at the moment, which often leads to a performance bump – in his case, the slightly unlikely choice of Fabrice Santoro, who also coaches Pierre-Hugues Herbert. 

Raonic and Thiem have played twice before, with the Canadian winning both matches – 6-3, 6-4 at the Cincinnati Masters, 7-6(5), 6-3 at the ATP Finals. But both matches came in 2016, which was the finest year of Raonic’s career and saw him playing some career-best tennis, and they haven’t faced off since. Could that make a difference?

Thiem is certainly a better hard-court player than he was in 2016, and he’s also had the experience of warming up for this match by playing Ivo Karlovic, which isn’t bad preparation at all for facing Raonic. He’ll need to be very effective on his serve, play aggressive but clean, be absolutely on the money with passing shots and be clinical in tie-breaks – but these are all things I think he’s actually capable of doing. This might be his best chance to make the final of a Masters 1000 Series tournament on hard courts and prove that his improvement on that surface is for real as well as brushing off a difficult start to 2019.

Thiem vs Raonic Indian Wells Masters tennis is live from Indian Wells on Saturday at 11am local/6pm GMT

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Thiem vs Raonic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Thiem score first win over Raonic in Indian Wells semifinals?

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