Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today’s match-up: World Number 2 Roger Federer against World Number 15 Milos Raonic. Both men arrive to this match in pretty good shape: Federer hasn’t lost a set, or even his serve over the first three rounds, while Raonic has won 9 straight sets after dropping the first set of his first round match against Hayek. Interestingly enough, Raonic has played only 3 tiebreakers so far in the AO – and won them all.
The head-to-head between the two is fascinating. Here are some nuggets that stand out:
– Federer and Raonic have’ve played each other three times before tonight, all of them in 2012.
– Each meting took place on a different surface, which is rather remarkable (they played on the slow hard courts of Indian Wells, the blue “clay” of Madrid, and the fast grass of Halle).
– All three matches were won by Federer, but Raonic won the first set in every single one of their matches..
– Two of the three matches ended in a third set tiebreaker. Good thing for the young Canadian that there are no 5th set tiebreakers at the Australian Open!
– Federer and Raonic have played four total tiebreakers, and they’ve each won two.
– Raonic averaged 18.6 aces per match in the three contests, as well as 84.3% of the points played on his first serve. Those are staggering numbers.
– Roger Federer’s best return performance against the huge Raonic serve came in their first meeting: only 10 aces allowed, and fewer than 80% of 1st serve points won for Raonic. Was that due to nerves from the Canadian, or because Indian Wells has the slowest tennis courts on Earth? Raonic had over 20 aces and won at least 85% of the points played on his 1st serve in their subsequent matches.
– In their Madrid match, Milos Raonic generated 8 break chances against Federer’s serve. How many did Milos create in their other two matches? A grand total of…..zero.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s segue into what we need to pay attention to during the match:
What to Watch For:
– For Milos Raonic, it’s all about the return of serve in this match. I use to frequently joke about Raonic’s incredible “achievement” at this year’s French Open: he played Juan Mónaco in a tense five-setter, and failed to break the Argie’s very average serve once. However, it has to be said that Raonic was making strides in this key department near the end of the year, and I thought he returned much better in his big Tokyo semifinal win over Andy Murray. Today, Raonic absolutely has to put pressure on Federer’s second serve, and at least try to take something away from the Swiss on the first deliveries. Bernie Tomic failed to do either, and only created a single break point against Federer in their third round match. In related news, Bernie lost in straight sets.
– How well will Raonic’s backhand fare today? Raonic’s BH is the other weak spot in the Canadian’s game, and it has the very bad habit of breaking down in key moments and near the end of matches. I don’t anticipate long rallies today, but Raonic has to hold his own on that side of the court, which will come under heavy fire with Federer’s own BH and the Swiss’ tendency to run around that wing and hit inside-out FHs.
– Can Federer win most of the FH exchanges? Against Tomic, Federer found it hard to keep up with the #BernieGOAT’s surprisingly huge FH. Tonight there won’t be a surprise about Raonic’s FH: we all know it’s huge. Working in Federer’s favor is the fact that Raonic isn’t the greatest mover out there, and has trouble getting back in a point after being pushed back.
– Who can keep it together in the inevitable tiebreakers that we’ll see? As I mentioned above, Federer and Raonic have split all the breakers they’ve played, but Federer has won the deciding set ones, and Raonic has made some key errors in those situations. Here is where we’ll see the fruits of Raonic’s experience over the past two years.
– Can Raonic win either of the first two sets? He’s always won the first set of his matches against Federer, and if he can keep that strange trend going, that will surely aid his chances. I don’t see Raonic mounting a comeback if he goes down two sets.
Both men are on court, so we’re ready to start! Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
Supposedly the weather has gotten a little colder, so the ESPN crew thinks that the conditions have gotten slower, which favor Federer. I actually think that kind of setting favors Raonic – gives him more time to set up for his shots and defend a little better.
First Set – Roger Federer will serve first
0-0: Raonic got a lot o returns in play – some short, but there was a good one in there, too. Federer holds easily after a fun opening point that ended on a stoned volley by Raonic.
1-0, Federer: Raonic DFs once, but the rest of the game is pretty straightforward. Came up with a huge volley from behind the service line to clinch the game. We got a look at Raonic’s 2nd serve kicker – it’s a monster.
Here is what Raonic looks like today:
As we know, the Canadian became the first NewBalance tennis player at the start of this year, ditching those tiny Lacoste shirts he wore in the past few years. I actually like this night kit, but the white “day” one is even better. Good debut, NewBalance.
1-1: Another easy hold for Federer, which included a couple of BH UFEs by Raonic. That wing is so problematic for the Canadian.
2-1, Federer: Two simple FH winners, two aces, and Raonic holds at love. Not much Federer could do there.
2-2: Federer does well to go to his “money” serve these days: the slider out wide. Raonic, like Tomic, is standing way back to return serve, so the weide serve from the deuce court is an easy target for the Swiss. Two aces come from that serve, and then another up the T seals a hold to 15.
It seems like we’re heading to Tiebreak City. Both men are on a groove on serve, and don’t have much of a read on the other’s delivery. The stats back me up: Federer has won 2 points on Raonic’s serve, which is just one more than Raonic has won off of his. Raonic has a very slight edge in 1st serve %: 70 to 69. That’s a pretty healthy number for both gentlemen.
3-2, Federer: Federer has a 15-30 look, after Raonic missed a FH putaway and got in trouble at net. Then another BH UFE gives Federer his first two BP chances of the match. Sloppy, sloppy game by Raonic. Raonic almost came up with 2 consecutive aces up the T, but Federer challenged the second one (it was out by a hair), only delaying the inevitable: Raonic came up with a huge 2nd service winner up the T anyway. The Canadian gets in trouble at net again, and a third BP appears. Huge serves clinch the game for Raonic, who got away with one there.
Circle that game, not because of something Federer did wrong – Raonic just bailed himself out of trouble with that enormous serve of his. Patrick McEnroe wants Federer to step back for returns, which I don’t think makes any sense: Federer has never moved back an inch in about a decade, and he’s faced some pretty big serves throughout the years. Plus, given Raonic’s placement, stepping back wouldn’t even make a difference.
3-3: Another simple hold for Federer, that included Raonic’s sole return highlight: a FH DTL winner that didn’t end up meaning much.
4-3, Federer: Federer gets his 2nd challange of the match correct, and again by a hair: a funny development. That was on the 1st serve of the game, and then Milos DF’ed. However, Raonic wins four straight points without much problem. Federer finding it difficult when the Canadian goes for big FHs so far.
Wondering if Federer had Hawkeye installed on his practice court in Dubai to improve his skills. He could certainly afford it. #ausopen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 21, 2013
4-4: You guessed it: Federer held easily. His 1st serve % has dropped to 64%, but he’s only lost two points on serve. This is a dangerous trend for Raonic: Federer rarely loses a match in which he is allowed to get in a serving groove. Gives him confidence, and allows him to take more chances on return games.
5-4, Federer: Raonic misses two straight FHs to go down 15-30, but not a third. However, Raonic DFs for the 3rd time in the match to give Federer another BP, which is set point. Raonic plays the point on his terms, blasting FH after FH, but is tempted to come in after a pretty mediocre one, and can’t handle Federer’s pass. It was a pretty makeable volley.
Raonic has gotten in trouble frequently at net: his volleying skills seem extremely raw. He only won 5 of 11 net points in that 1st set, and bricked a ton of fairly straightforward volleys. Milos, just stay back.
Also, Raonic was playing with fire in that first set. He played two very sloppy games, and while he dug himself out of a hole the first time, he was made to pay for the second one. That tends to happen when you play a 17-time grand slam champion at a Slam. Also, a trend has been broken: for the first time in their matches, Roger Federer won the first set.
First set to Roger Federer, 6-4. Here are your stats:
Second Set – Roger Federer will serve first
0-0: A now traditional Federer hold to 15 that included a hilarious attempt at a tweener by Raonic. You can guess how that ended.
PMac and BG claim Isner returns better than Raonic. The stats do not back that up, guys.
1-0, Federer: Raonic puts away what feels like his first correct volley of the match. He comes up with two straight aces to hold, after missing an inside-out FH earlier.
About Raonic’s inside-out FH: the ESPN crew did make a good point earlier: Raonic tends to be very predictable off that wing, and not that consistent when he goes in a different direction than inside-out. It is a huge FH, but not very versatile.
1-1: Federer holds at love, and Raonic is still befuddled by the Swiss’ serve. He’s won 3 of 31 of points played when Federer serves. That’s…really not a winning strategy.
I know @juanjo_sports is somewhere in despair at the return performance.
— Chris P (@scoobschris) January 21, 2013
Chris knows me well.
2-1, Federer: Raonic misses two putaways, one FH and one BH, but a huge inside-out FH and a service winner get him out of trouble.
It seems to me that Raonic’s game is way too raw for someone at this point of his career. It may not be Galo Blanco’s fault: tennis players have no real obligation to listen to their coaches. After all, it’s the players who pay them. Still…Raonic’s BH, his movement and the volleys are just too weak for somebody who just went through a full season of ATP play and is ranked that high.
2-2: Federer makes a FH UFE, probably out of boredom, but then holds to 15. He’s under no pressure at all on his serve. Might be able to hit his serve, close his eyes, and still hold to 15.
Here’s an interesting thought:
Question for anyone who has complained that tennis courts have gotten too slow: Are you watching this?
— Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) January 21, 2013
3-2, Federer: Raonic holds easily, and the only noteworthy thing of that last game was Federer’s annoyed expressions after missing returns. I think the Swiss is as bored as anybody can be while playing a grand slam match. And you know what? Nobody can blame him. In related news, Federer holds at love yet again.
Raonic has won 4 points on Federer’s serve. Out of 40 points. That’s 10%. One in 10. You need to win 4 return points in a single game just to break (provided you don’t go to deuces). Raonic is as far from breaking Federer as I am from the nation of Uganda.
It’s not Monfils-Simon and yet, it’s fairly dull, this.
— Chris P (@scoobschris) January 21, 2013
3-3: Raonic held to 15. Returns were missed. Not much else took place.
4-3, Federer: So…Federer held at love. It was as uneventful as it sounds.
— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) January 21, 2013
The horror, the horror.
I think I missed a couple of games there. Let’s just pick up at 5 all. It’s not like we’ve missed much of anything.
5-5: Federer held at love. SURPRISE! There was a comical attempt by Raonic to get to a Federer shot that clipped the letcord. Other than that…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
4th love hold of set for Federer, this one in under a minute. Federer winning 91% first serve points; 93% second serve. #ausopen
— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) January 21, 2013
6-5, Federer: Raonic misses a FH to go down 0-15, but comes up with big serves (I feel like I’ve typed that sentence 482895985 times) and holds without losing another point.
TIEBREAKER – Roger Federer will serve first
0-0: Federer puts away simple FH.
1-0, Federer: Bomb out wide by Raonic.
1-1: An ace via challenge for Raonic.
2-1, Raonic: Service winner by Federer.
2-2: Raonic gets a BH pass to cross the net, but misses by a couple of inches. As close to suspense as we’ve come.
3-2, Federer: Another ace by Raonic.
3-3: Raonic comes to net, gets passed. Terrible decision, easy opportunity for Federer for the Minibreak
4-3, Federer: They play a rally, and just when it started to look like Raonic had a chance, he badly mishit a BH.
5-3, Federer: Ace by Federer, triple set point.
6-3, Federer: An interesting rally that ends with a good FH DTL by Raonic. One of the very few we’ve had so far.
6-4, Federer: Raonic comes to net again, gets passed like a Roddick. That made me laugh.
Second set to Roger Federer, 7-6(4) Here are your 2nd set stats:
Third set – Milos Raonic will serve first
0-0: Raonic got broken at love. I don’t even know how that happened, so I went back to watch it on the DVR. Two FH UFEs, two BH UFEs. That took like, 15 seconds.
Game, set, match, no?
1-0, Federer: Federer holds to 30. You read that right: Raonic won 2 points on Federer’s serve! In one game!
2-0, Federer: Raonic goes down 15-40 after yet another errant FH. A little later, Raonic botches yet another perfectly makeable volley, and he’s down 2 breaks.
— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2013
I’m actually looking forward to Federer’s post-match interview. It’s going to be very, very tough to say anything nice about Raonic’s game today.
3-0, Federer: Federer makes a few errors, and we have the first deuce of the match on his service games. I can’t fault him for getting sloppy – this match is over, and everybody knows it. But Roger is a professional, so he hits two straight aces and makes it 4-0.
Was that a deuce?Did he get to deuce and I missed it?Damn.
— Chris P (@scoobschris) January 21, 2013
Raonic is in that oh-so-tough period of a career: Best players have figured him out; now must be good, not just powerful, to have a chance.
— Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) January 21, 2013
4-0, Federer: Federer hit a drop shot return winner at 40-0. That was genius, and hilarious. He might as well have made the “not impressed” face. Raonic’s reaction? A double-fault. Then he botches another FH. A service winner is followed by a DF. A surprisingly good volley gives Raonic a chance to hold. Which he does after a good FH.
I’m telling you, it’s the too-tight shirt. No one can play tennis properly in that thing. Except maybe Andy Murray.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 21, 2013
4-1, Federer: Federer finds himself at 30-all, but a few seconds later, he holds.
5-1, Federer: A needlessly protracted service game for Raonic is only highlighted by the only time I can remember seeing Federer backpedal for a return. He got it in, but lost the point and the game. That was surreal.
5-2, Federer: In a blink of an eye, Federer goes up 40-15. Botches a FH, but then he doesn’t, and this match is over. Thankfully.
Third set to Roger Federer, 6-2. Here are your third set stats:
Final result: Federer wins, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2
I’ll be very quick about Roger Federer: he was impeccable tonight. Only after going a double-break in the third set did the Lindt ambassador have any semblance of a lapse in concentration. And at that point, nobody could blame him: the match was over. Federer did everything he needed to do to give himself a chance to win: serve well, be opportunistic on Raonic’s service games, and keep it clean in any eventual tiebreakers. If this match was an exam, Federer would have aced it.
However, it was a very, very easy exam. It shouldn’t take away from Federer’s clean performance, but it should make us examine more closely what Milos Raonic did tonight.
Commentators on TV and folks on Twitter called this match a “lesson” for Raonic. I actually disagree: this was a thorough undressing, not a lesson. What’s the difference? At least in a “lesson”, the pupil shows his potential, but gets thoroughly outplayed by the “master” in a way that guides the improvement needed for the future. Milos Raonic was at that stage last year, and the year before. You saw the promise, you saw the potential, and you also saw what Raonic needed to do to reach the next level: improve on his wildly unreliable backhand, improve his movement, and most of all, improve his return of serve.
Today was an undressing, because Raonic supposedly had made strides in all of those departments in the past year, yet failed to show us any credible proof of said improvement. What’s more, Federer showed us that in some of them, Raonic has not only failed to improve, but has gotten worse. The return of serve, particularly: Raonic failed to create a single break point opportunity for himself, and only managed to get to deuce on Federer’s serve once in the entire match. You might say that’s not new: in the preview I noted that Raonic had failed to create a single BP in two of the three previous matches against Federer. But this is why today’s performance marked a new low for Raonic: during the first two sets, which included twenty two games and a tiebreaker, Milos Raonic managed to win all of four points on Federer’s serve.
Four points. Out of 53. That’s good for 7.5%. And it’s simply unacceptable.
Moreover, I’m not sure if Raonic managed to win a single point from a defensive position, and that backhand leaked UFEs all match. Even worse, the FH was shown to be extremely predictable and unreliable as well. At the end of the day, the only bright spot for Raonic was his serve, something that doesn’t come as a surprise or as news. But that’s about it.
Now, Raonic is 22 years old, and big guys like him take a little longer to develop. But I do wonder if his relationship with Galo Blanco is working: like I said above, either Blanco is not giving good advice, or Raonic isn’t listening. And due to the unique situation in tennis, where the player pays the coach, it’s up for Raonic to either change his attitude towards what he needs to improve, or seek a change that can truly jump-start his development into something more than a top 15 player who might graze the top 10 from time to time.
It was truly disappointing to see that tonight Milos Raonic’s game looked about as raw as it did when he broke into the scene. After 131 matches on the ATP tour, this beatdown showed an alarming lack of improvement from the young Canadian. The alarm bells have been set off, and the only one who can quiet them is Milos Raonic himself.
Raonic had MRI and foot injection, wasn’t sure to be able to play. Well, in those circumstances, I guess we can say he played well no 😉
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) January 21, 2013
raonic almost withdrew b4 match: “until probably 45 minutes to an hour before the match, I wasn’t even sure I’d play.”
— tennistweets.com (@tennistweetscom) January 21, 2013