Milos Raonic stormed into his second Masters 1000 final on Saturday at Indian Wells, overpowering Belgian David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Raonic, the world No 14 who is going through a makeover under the tutelage of new coach Carlos Moya, blasted 10 aces in the two-hour match to help counter 35 unforced errors.
He will face now Novak Djokovic in the final, and the world No 1 has a healthy and complimentary respect for his Canadian opponent.
Raonic is going to have to find some answers against 11 time grand slam winner Djokovic, who has beaten him all five times they have met previously, but the Serb is not underestimating the 25-year-old.
"Milos is probably playing the best tennis that he has ever played," Djokovic said after beating Rafael Nadal to book his place in the final. "I think looking at his performances this year, winning in Brisbane, playing semis of Australian Open, and then coming back off injury and playing already in finals here, it's quite impressive.
“His serve was phenomenal .... seems like he has improved even more, especially the second serve. He’s going for it more. He’s not giving you the same look.”
Raonic, who reached his 17th career ATP final and second Masters final after losing to Nadal for the Montreal Masters title in 2013, roared through the first set in 34 minutes but struggled in the second with his serve as he tried to increase speed without sacrificing other components of his game.
“I feel even when I am not playing my best I am able to find the answers,” said Raonic. “I am definitely able to play at a higher level this year and when a crisis occurs during a match I can find the solutions better.
“I lost my way a little in the second set, but in the third I stuck to my identity,” Raonic said.
Raonic, known for dominating opponents with his booming serve, has added more variety to his serve and backhand shots as he put 18th-ranked Goffin away with early breaks in the first and third sets.
He credits former world No 1 Moya with helping him add new shots to his game and those changes are holding up even after a six-week layoff due to a torn thigh muscle.
The injury flared up in his five-set semi-final loss to Andy Murray at the Australian Open and Raonic was unable to play in the Davis Cup earlier this month when Canada lost 5-0 to France.
Raonic reached his first final since winning at Brisbane in January. He improved to 14-1 on the season.
The Canadian blasted 39 winners to 22 for Goffin and won 81 per cent of his first serve points. He clocked one serve in the opening set at 146 mph (234km/h), the fastest of the tournament.
Raonic avenged a three-set loss to Goffin in the quarter-finals at Basel in 2014, the only other time the two have met.
Goffin became the first player in the tournament to take a set off Raonic when he won the second.
The Belgian was battle-tested, having saved two match points in his opening contest to defeat wildcard Frances Tiafoe.
Goffin’s biggest victory of the tournament was a fourth-round upset of reigning French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
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