Milos Raonic overpowers Gilles Muller to reach 3rd round at Australian Open

Third-seeded Milos Raonic ended one streak and continued another with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) Thursday over Gilles Muller to reach the third round at the Australian Open.

Raonic, who reached the semifinals here last year and the final at Wimbledon, had lost both previous matches to Muller — including one when he retired with an injured hip in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012.

His win Thursday maintained Raonic’s record of reaching the third round at least all seven years he has contested the Australian Open.

The 33-year-old Muller entered the season’s first major after capturing his first tour-level title in Sydney last week.

Raonic was unable to defend his Brisbane title in the first week of the season, but is finding rhythm quickly in Melbourne — he fired 21 aces, hit 56 winners and only had 15 unforced errors against Muller.

He left the court complaining of a sore throat, and will get a day off before his next match against No. 25 Gilles Simon.

No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Raonic in the semifinals before winning the Brisbane International earlier this month, moved into the third round with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Chung Hye-on. Dimitrov will next play No. 18 Richard Gasquet.

Pliskova continues to dominate

U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season’s first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round. 

Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 against Anna Blinkova in the second round on Thursday before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Fifth-seeded Pliskova finished off the match 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour — she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0.

“It’s always good to be in the zone,” said Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. “It can always be a bit better.”

Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equalled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.

Murray returns to practice after injury

Johanna Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year before losing to eventual champion Kerber, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka.

Konta, voted the WTA Tour’s most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week.

Konta will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, the U.S. Open semifinalist last September. Wozniacki was broken while serving for the match against Donna Vekic, but immediately broke back at love to win 6-1, 6-3.

WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova held off Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 7-6 (8) and will next play No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova, who was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired because of a leg injury.

Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win on Wednesday night.

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