ATP Brisbane: Milos Raonic fights from behind to defeat Rafael Nadal

Milos Raonic progressed to the semifinals of the Brisbane International with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over fifth seed Rafael Nadal for just his second win in eight career meetings with the Spanish legend.

Nadal takes the early lead

The veteran Spaniard continued his fine play from the baseline, pushing Raonic around, thus allowing him to keep the Canadian's offense at minimum. After saving a break point in the opening game of the match, he reached 15-40 in the fifth game and although he missed his first chance, the second saw him convert as Raonic pushed a forehand wide.

Now with the lead, Nadal's forehand continued to be the dominant shot of the match and it gave him a 5-3 lead. Now in trouble, Raonic saved two break/set points with an ace directly and another ace that set up his game point to which he converted for a hold. Now trying to serve it out, Nadal needed four tries to put the set away, which he finally did.

Nadal misses chance to finish off match, Raonic capitalizes on opportunity

The heavyweight fight that was expected continued to materialize as Raonic was dictating with his serve while Nadal's forehand was still his most effective weapon. In the fifth game, much as in the first set, the 14-time Grand Slam champion twice had a chance to break, but this time, his forehand let him down for a rare occasion and Raonic held. 

The bypassed opportunity seemed to breathe new life into the defending champion and he used it to full effect, breaking in the eighth game with a blistering a return to draw a Nadal error. Now with a 5-3 edge, he served out the set in style, hitting three aces and a serve-forehand combination to put away the set and level the match at one set all.

Raonic fends off challenge to reach last four

Raonic looked to continue the momentum he gained in the second set and a clearly affected Nadal, sullied by blowing the second set and Raonic was soon on the front foot. Now dictating from the baseline, something he hadn't done earlier in the match, the Canadian broke on the third time of asking with a sizzling forehand up the line to open the set with a break.

The break meant that it was a long way back for Nadal as he tried to break one of the best serves in tennis. He did have a chance in the fourth game, but at 30-40, Raonic nailed an inside-out forehand to save it and that proved to be the Spaniard's final opportunity as the top seed effortlessly held the final three times he stepped to the line, including back-to-back love holds.

Numbers tell the story

Raonic severely outclassed Nadal, hitting 50 winners compared to only 19 for his legendary rival. He hit 23 aces and won 81 percent of his first serve points despite Nadal limiting him to just 46 percent on the second serve return.

Raonic's quest for a third straight Brisbane final faces one final challenge in the semifinals, squaring off with seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov.