1st Round: d. Alexander Zverev – 6-1, 6-2, 6-3
2nd Round: d. Sam Groth – 6-0, 6-4, 6-1
3rd Round: d. Joao Sousa – 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
4th Round: d. Bernard Tomic – 6-4, 6-4, 7-6
Quarter-Final: d. David Ferrer – 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3
Andy Murray’s consistency and ability to play big was crucial in his quarter-final win over David Ferrer. With the match locked at one set a piece, there was every chance this was going to continue on as a baseline slog-fest. Murray really stepped it up in the third set however, hitting 15 winners to Ferrer’s three as he broke twice to take a nice two set to one lead. While he dropped his serve in the fourth set it was once again never in doubt as the Scot was clutch on break points, taking the only two that were presented to him. On the whole part, Murray played a pretty solid match. Winning 76% of first serves against Ferrer is a comforting statistic, while winning 82% of his 38 approaches to the net just backs up his aggressive mindset. With 49 winners to 64 errors however, you are bordering on losing control of the situation. Is this too many errors? Against most players yes, but Ferrer forces you to play closer to the lines in a similar way to what Gilles Simon did to Novak Djokovic. This will no doubt be corrected in the semi-final on Friday.
1st Round: d. Lucas Pouille – 6-1, 6-4, 6-4
2nd Round: d. Tommy Robredo – 7-6, 7-6, 7-5
3rd Round: d. Viktor Troicki – 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
4th Round: d. Stan Wawrinka – 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3
Quarter-Final: d. Gael Monfils – 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Milos Raonic’s fine form continued on Wednesday night, taking out the dangerous Gael Monfils in four sets. After a lull in form in the second set, Raonic was able to step it up for the rest of the match, giving up just one more break point on his way to his first Australian Open semi-final. Taking a look at that second set he gave up and you could easily understand why it went the way it did. Monfils was on fire, hitting 12 winners to just four errors, while converting on the singular break point opportunity he had. Monfils himself was serving big as well and saved the three break points against his serve. Once again for Raonic, this could have easily turned into a tight match as it would have last year, but once refocused this match was all his. Over the next two sets he lost just 10 points on serve, hitting 27 winners while winning 20 of 26 points at the net. Raonic still committed many unforced errors you wouldn’t see from the likes of Djokovic or Federer however and still remains the main concern for him moving forward. Can he seize the moment and play aggressive yet still be consistent enough to challenge the top players.
How the Match will Unfold
Like the other semi-final, this head-to-head is locked even, with both men taking three wins out of the six matches played. Murray has taken their last two meetings in straight sets, but with victories to Raonic on hard and clay courts, this matchup is undoubtedly even. The combination of the excellent returning from Murray against the big serving Canadian allows for highly entertaining individual contests, while seeing if Raonic can use his big game to take down the Murray second serve is enthralling to watch. Evidently, serving is the biggest key to this match.
Murray, one of the best returners in the game will have his work cut out in this match. Raonic has been serving bombs all tournament, using his precision placement on top of his incredible pace. Despite this, and with a second serve to die for, his success after missing his first serve has been somewhat limited. In his last three matches his second serve winning percentage while still excellent, is lower than what most would expect. At 62% vs Monfils, 48% vs Wawrinka and 59% vs Troicki there is obviously room to take advantage of slower paced ball. The key for Murray this match is to return the ball to the Raonic backhand – much harder than it sounds. At one point in the third set last night, 97% of the first shot Raonic had hit after his serve was a forehand. This lethal 1-2 combination sets the point up brilliantly, with the returner on his heels on a consistent basis. As Monfils and Wawrinka have shown in their last matches, taking the return closer to the baseline seems to work the best. This not only limits Raonic’s time to recover from the serve, but also put them in better position to stay neutral three shots into the rally.
On Murray’s serve, the second ball is key to the outcome of this match. This is arguably the weakest shot of the top five players on tour. While it has improved, the Murray second serve sits up nicely for the returner to free their arms and turn the rally in their favour. In his past three matches he has had limited success – 48% against Ferrer, 57% against Tomic and 45% against Sousa indicates some real struggles. On Friday night he faces an opponent who can definitely take big cuts at the ball. Raonic needs to drive this return hard at either the Murray feet or deep into the backhand corner. With this the rally is likely to go in his direction, giving him the opportunity to move forward and finish the point at the net.
Aside from the serve, this contest heavily favours Murray. His consistency from the back of the court is made possible by his excellent court coverage and defence – the biggest concern for Raonic. Can the Canadian produce a consistent enough three or so hours to take down Murray? At periods in his quarter-final match, Raonic’s mobility around the court was exposed, not getting his feet set before executing his shots. While errors like these aren’t overly concerning against an opponent like Monfils, against a player of Murray’s calibre it will be costly. Murray will look to pound the Raonic backhand which is by far his weakest shot, he can do this through his own best shot, the backhand, or even by running around to hit a more aggressive forehand sliding away from the centre of the court. If Murray turns this into a baseline duel, he will win, no doubt.
The Murray second serve is a real concern in this matchup, and with Raonic serving the way he is, one break of serve against the Scot might spell the end of the set. But Murray’s own return game is likely to save him in this match. Playing a big man like Sam Groth in the second round will have served him well, and even with Raonic being a far more complete player than Groth, the big serve was no issue for Murray. His consistency should turn this into a baseline match, giving Murray the upper hand.
Andy Murray in five sets