With spot in the semis booked, it's time to take Raonic more seriously

With spot in the semis booked, it's time to take Raonic more seriously

The Canadian looks like a real contender after dismantling Miomir Kecmanovic in the Indian Wells quarterfinals on Thursday.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—On Thursday, Milos Raonic handled Miomir Kecmanovic, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to the BNP Paribas Open semifinals. 

Kecmanovic learned the hard way that you simply can't afford to make any mistakes against players that can serve like Raonic. Two of the Serbian's failures to hold quickly turned into a straightforward win for the Canadian, and Kecmanovic was also unable to capitalize on his own chances.

At 1-3 in the opening set, the 19-year-old missed on an opportunity to break and get things back on serve. The same happened at 3-4 in the second set, when Kecmanovic actually gave himself two break points. The silver lining is that the loss can serve as a learning experience for a lucky loser that exceeded expectations over the course of the last two weeks. The 19-year-old will also crack the Top 100 for the first time.

Meanwhile, Raonic is showing he’s back in excellent form. The 2016 Wimbledon finalist has come on strong in 2019, which isn't surprising considering this is the healthiest he has been in years. The 28-year-old has consistently dealt with injuries—and recently stated that his knee isn't 100 percent—but he has been able to perform.

The Australian Open is where Raonic showed that he is close to reaching the top of his game when he made a run to the quarterfinals with wins over Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev. A disappointing loss to Lucas Pouille sent him packing, but it was still an encouraging stretch from a player that was once considered a big part of the sport's future. 

Raonic is making it clear that he still has some time to be a part of that conversation. So far, he has dropped just one set through four rounds in Palm Springs. His serve is as dangerous a weapon as it has ever been, and he is flashing some of the same mobility that made him a presence in Melbourne. And Raonic isn't done either. 

The conditions in Indian Wells have always suited a big-hitting player like him nicely, and it's important to note that the Canadian won't be running into Novak Djokovic anytime soon. The Serbian is 9-0 against Raonic in his career, but he was upset by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the round of 32. That leaves Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the two biggest names in the field, and a case can be made that Raonic would have a shot at beating either one. 

Nadal has historically struggled against bigger, more powerful players, which is something that perfectly describes Raonic. And while Nadal has won the BNP Paribas Open three times, it's still fair to wonder just how good he is feeling at this point in the season. Nadal played flawless tennis on his way to making the Australian Open final back in January, but he had undergone ankle surgery before the season and lost to Djokovic in a lopsided final. Considering the world No. 2 has played just two matches since then, it's entirely possible he'll struggle with stringing together a few more big wins.

As for Federer, Raonic knows that he can pull off the upset if he is on his A-game. Although Federer has beaten Raonic 11 times in his career, the Canadian has come away with three wins in their head-to-head history. Raonic also happens to have won the last time they met on hard courts, which was in Brisbane in 2016. 

Raonic still has work to do if he's going to make it to the final, as he plays Dominic Thiem next, but he has quietly made his way into the final four of an ATP Masters 1000 event. People might have forgotten about him, but he is doing his best to remind us that he is still here.