By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifth seed Milos Raonic claimed the throne as King of the Tiebreaks, blasting his way into the fourth round of the U.S. Open with a 7-6(5) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) win over Victor Estrella Burgos on Saturday.
The big-hitting Canadian has used his booming serve to great effect at Flushing Meadows, particularly in the tiebreaks, winning all six he has faced in three matches including three against Estrella Burgos.
"Just an understanding that it is a coin toss in a lot of ways," explained Raonic about his success in the pressure packed set clinchers. "It can go both ways but with my serve and ability to finish points quickly and the kind of pressure that puts on my opponents, I can maybe shift odds in my favor.
"When things aren't necessarily going well throughout the set, I feel like, okay, focus on making sure this goes all the way through.
"Take care of your serve and give yourself a shot in the breaker."
In terms of tiebreaks nobody does it better than the big Canadian, whose .719 win percentage is the best among ATP Tour players who have played 30 or more breakers.
While the 23-year-old Raonic has worked hard to develop an all round game, he continues to lean heavily on one of the Tour's hardest serves to get him out of tough jams.
That happened on Saturday against the 34-year-old Dominican, who became the oldest man to win his U.S. Open debut with a first round win over Dutchman Igor Sijsling.
"It was difficult," admitted Raonic, who blasted 22 aces past Estrella Burgos. "He's playing well. He's playing with a lot of aspiration.
"I'm glad that I was able to play well in the important moments.
"It's good to get the win. It's good to put myself in this position in the fourth round to go further in this tournament and give myself an opportunity to play better.
"I believe I can play better. I believe I will."
Many also believe Raonic could become the first Canadian to win a grand slam.
Already the first Canadian to reach a grand slam semi-final with his final four appearance at Wimbledon, the fifth seed is on the cusp of cracking the Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
To do that Raonic will have to get past his fourth round opponent Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori, who has yet to drop a set on his way to the fourth round.
"Kei's biggest strength comes really in his movement," said Raonic, sizing up his next challenge. "He's able to take the ball early because of it.
"At the same time he's able to defend well because of how well he moves and how well he can get himself in position. Sort of have to find your way around that."
As Raonic has climbed the rankings so has his profile and marketing potential.
The protective sleeve he once wore on his right arm due to injury he now wears for style and good luck, becoming part of his signature as he changes color schemes and designs at different tournaments.
But it is the Canadian's immaculately coiffed, never out of place, hair that has caught the fascination of commentators and fans alike.
"It's not really a secret. I don't got really too-different hair of most people, just the right product," laughed Raonic. "I'll just let the hair speak for itself.
"It's got a Twitter account, so it actually does more speaking than I probably do on Twitter."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)