In order to advance to the Australian Open semifinals for the second time, Milos Raonic will have to accomplish a career first on Tuesday in defeating world No. 2 Novak Djokovic.
Raonic is 0-9 in his career against Djokovic, including a quarter-final loss at the Australian Open in 2015.
Watch the match LIVE Tuesday morning on TSN1, TSN3 and TSN Direct at 3am ET/Midnight PT.
The Canadian, however, enters their 10th meeting playing some of the best tennis of his career, having yet to drop a set at the year's first major. Raonic has already pulled off an upset over No. 6 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and topped 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic on Sunday.
Cilic, who fell 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in their fourth-round match, said he believes Raonic has a legitimate chance to win his first career Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
“Milos played unbelievable tennis and he is just showing that he’s in great form, maybe the best form I’ve seen him during all his career,” said Cilic. “From my own opinion and playing against him, I feel he has a really good chance to win the tournament.”
It's no secret that Tuesday's match could be decided by Raonic's serve, with both the Thornhill, Ont., native and Djokovic speaking on its importance ahead of their meeting. Raonic has a total of 82 aces through his first four matches and opponents are 0-for-7 on break points opportunities.
"I was really struggling with my serve through the practice week. The first match, it didn't feel necessarily that great because it was a little bit windy on that court," Raonic said Sunday. "I just sort of found my rhythm. Once I get my rhythm and once I have continuity of playing, it comes for me. Serving is the most natural thing for me to do."
“I’m going to have to serve well clearly, and then I think I'm going to have to get my return at a high percentage, make him play a lot of those points, and then try to be efficient on my service games,” Raonic added of his strategy against Djokovic. “I think we play quite opposite from each other, and he's done a good job in the past neutralizing my serve. So I have really got to focus on my things well and be the one dictating.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic, who's the reigning Australian Open champion, said he will be looking to employ a similar strategy.
"One of the key elements will be how well I'm returning, and how confident I am on my service games," Djokovic said. "I'm really glad to see Milos healthy and playing on a really good level again. He's a great guy, we speak the same language, and I'm glad to see him in the quarters."
Raonic returned to the court after a two-month break earlier in January at the Qatar Open, but was eliminated in first match of the tournament by France's Corentin Moutet. The 29-year-old said after Sunday's win that the extended break helped him get back to full health.
"It was hard for me to skip Davis Cup, but I had to spend time, because I was ailing (with) a back issue throughout pretty much the whole year," Raonic said. "I had to take time where I didn't serve for about a month. But it allowed me to focus on other things, put other things together and get stronger, get fitter.
"I was able to train for about six, seven weeks straight without any hindrances, no setbacks. I was thankful for that."
After missing significant time last year, Raonic entered the Australian Open ranked No. 32, third among Canadians behind Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Raonic said Sunday that falling behind the two young stars, both in the rankings and in media attention, did not provide him with extra motivation.
“Couldn't care less,” Raonic said. “I just care about how I'm playing and feel on the court.”
Raonic and Djokovic have played each other just once since facing off three times during the 2016 season. Djokovic took the most recent meeting 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in Cincinnati in 2018.