1st Round: d. Guido Pella – 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3
2nd Round: d. Marcus Willis – 6-0, 6-3, 6-4
3rd Round: d. Daniel Evans – 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
4th Round: d. Steve Johnson – 6-2, 6-3, 7-5
Quarter-Final: d. Marin Cilic – 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3
It’s almost impossible to believe that we’re writing a semi-final prediction featuring Roger Federer considering the hole he was in at two sets to love, 3-3, 0-40 down, but here we are. From that point in his match against Marin Cilic, the tide turned ever so slightly. The incredible first strike tennis Cilic was playing in the first hour was slowly being picked apart by the great man, eventually getting enough balls back to bring the match back to neutral. This would usually favour Federer, but after a few strange misses it seemed destined this match would fall the way of Cilic in the fourth set tiebreak. After pushing through these challenging points and securing the set, it was inevitable the consistent play from Federer would eventually get him a break in the fifth. Statistically speaking, it was a very solid outing from Federer with 67 winners to just 24 unforced errors and a crucial second serve winning percentage of 59%. With big second serves on big points, Fed was able to bail himself out of crucial situations on multiple occasions. After taking down a player playing Grand Slam winning level tennis, there’s every chance Federer will challenge for the title.
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1st Round: d. Pablo Carreno Busta – 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4
2nd Round: d. Andreas Seppi – 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2
3rd Round: d. Jack Sock – 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-6(1)
4th Round: d. David Goffin – 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Quarter-Final: d. Sam Querrey – 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4
Milos Raonic saw off a spirited effort from America’s Sam Querrey, defeating the 28th seed in four sets. It wasn’t completely one-way traffic like most predicted however. Querrey’s first serve gave Raonic real trouble, pushing the Canadian deep in the second set and then eventually taking the third. Overall however, it was his second serve that let him down, winning him just 41% of points. With a first serve percentage of just 57%, he’s giving his opponent far too many looks on his weakest delivery. On his own serve, Raonic was pretty efficient, winning 87% of points on first serve and 71% on second. In the one set he did drop though, it was only a lapse in concentration at 5-5, double faulting at the crucial 30-30 point to give Querrey his one look for the set. To his credit though, Raonic was able to recompose himself, trusting his serve would take care of itself while he went to work on the Querrey serve. Winning just five of the 16 points on second serve in this set was ultimately the difference, giving Raonic plenty of opportunities to push on return and in turn win the match.
Analysis and Prediction
The two have met 11 times previously, with Federer taking nine to Raonic’s two. Their last meeting was earlier in the year in Brisbane, where Raonic won in straight sets against a tired looking Federer. This was also the springboard for Raonic’s solid run in the Australian summer, playing a brand of tennis that’s hard to defend against. The two have met on grass on two occasions, with Federer taking their 2014 Wimbledon meeting in a comfortable straight sets match, while he snuck out a tight victory in the quarter-final in Halle a year earlier. Raonic’s serve makes it very difficult to get on top in a return game, and on previous occasions it was just the pressure applied by Federer’s own serve that eventually brought about his undoing.
It goes without saying that this match revolves a lot around the Raonic serve. As his biggest weapon he relies on it to set the point up and pile on the pressure on his opponent. Holding serve so easily can be hard to overcome mentally for the returner, likely not getting a look in in crucial stages of a set. In the past, it’s been Raonic that has struggled in these big moments against Federer, missing first serves and offering up his weaker second to be attacked. The second serve is strong, but not on the level that Cilic’s was on Wednesday, which will likely give Federer more chances to break the serve. When the point is in Raonic’s favour because of the serve, he must take his forehand hard to the Federer backhand, pushing him behind the baseline with a natural strength advantages. If he’s allowed to dominate the middle third of the baseline with these sort of shots, it will be quite similar to how Cilic played in the first two and a half sets in the quarter-final.
For Federer, his natural baseline advantage gives him a real leg-up in this match. Once the ball is in a neutral position in the rally, it will be very hard for Raonic to outmanoeuvre Federer who just has far too many answers to what will be offered. Look for the Swiss to push Milos side to side to expose his mobility issues, but also his strength when on the stretch. This will obviously be much easier for Federer on his own serve if he continues in the same vein as he did against Cilic, with big one-two combinations either winning him the point outright, or putting him in a strong position to move forward. On return, it’s likely Federer will employ the slice backhand on first serve just to keep the ball low on the 196cm giant. On the second, the height of the kick serve may give Federer some trouble, but a positive return position like the one he employed from the third set onwards against Cilic should prevent this serve from tying him up too often.
A big question lies around how Federer will recover from his epic match against Cilic, but with points kept relatively short and a match time of 3:17, it may not play a factor. Based on how he was able to break down the game of an opponent playing arguably the best tennis of 2016, anything Raonic throws at him will likely be absorbed. Querrey’s relative success in pushing the Canadian in the baseline rallies also shows that a greater baseline game with significantly more variation should be enough to get the job done.
Roger Federer in four sets