“I want to apologise to Milos. It was not something you see often. There was no change over moment, it was not intentional or tactical, it was something I had to do. Those games I could not see much and I had to change my lenses,” Djokovic said after the match.
Djokovic also paid emotional tribute to his friend NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
“I was fortunate to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years,” said Djokovic, who was wearing a green tracksuit with KB and Bryant’s number in black on the breast.
“When I needed some advice and suport he was there for me. He was my mentor. It was heartbreaking to see what happened to him and to his daughter. It’s unbelievable.”
Djokovic now plays Roger Federer in a semi-final that presents historic possibilities for both men. For Djokovic if he advances it means he maintains his stranglehold on this event, and takes him a step away from bridging the grand slam gap between him and Federer and Nadal.
For Federer it would obviously secure a place in another final and so a chance for yet another grand slam title. Federer too has injury trouble. Djokovic presumably will overcome his eye discomfort by then.
The pair will meet for the 50th time. Of the 49 previous matches Djokovic holds the edge by 26 to 23.
Djokovic now has five losses and 70 wins in Melbourne since 2008 when the surface went from green to blue. That is a dominance on the surface that draws a not unfair comparison to Nadal on clay.
Raonic would not argue with how difficult Djokovic is to beat on this surface. The Canadian has one of the biggest serves in the game yet he battled from the outset to hold his serve against the Serb who counter-punched so sharply and brutally that while he still earned easy points Raonic had few easy service games.
His bigger problem was not his strength but his relative weakness. Raonic could make no impact on Djokovic’s serve. He took half the first set to win a point on Djokovic’s serve. A single point.
Finally in the seventh game of the second set, and down a break, he forced Djokovic to defend a break point. He did, but at least it was a sign that the 32nd seed was starting to get some traction.
By the third set Raonic was getting rhythm on his serve and with it more comfort in holding, but still he could not make inroads.
Then at 4-4 and Raonic about to serve, Djokovic had his contact lens problems. The time off court didn’t please Raonic who reasoned with the chair umpire that he could just as easily say he had to change contact lenses – even though he doesn’t wear them – to get a medical time out. He didn’t like the interruption, though he would have been less upset after winning the next service game to love.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.