Thursday, 29 January 2015

Djokovic delivers a lesson to Raonic

Novak Djokovic had played big serving Canadian Milos Raonic 3 times previously, all in 2014, and won each time.  The first two were on clay including a quarter final at Roland Garros.  The last time was late in the year in Paris on a hard court.

Raonic has been touted as one of the next wave of players to challenge for the top rankings and tonight's quarter final would hopefully be a measure of how far he has come in the path to achieve higher glory.

Djokovic began with an ace and completed his opening service game to love with a forehand winner.  That set the scene for how his serving was to go for the evening.
Raonic had to endure a break point and 3 deuces before his serve finally clicked  and 2 aces assisted him to level at 1-1.  He didn't lose a point in his next 2 service games but neither was Djokovic troubled in reaching the 3-3 score line.

At 0-30 and again at deuce in the seventh game the top seed was stretched just a little but remaining calm under pressure his forehand winner gave him 4-3.
2 more break points on the Raonic serve were saved in the next game and while he could see 4-4 on the board it was his serve that had been in most danger of being dropped, something he could ill afford since it was his great strength entering the contest.

The tie break arrived and Djokovic was up a break quickly thanks to a Raonic error.  Djokovic returned the favour and the Canadian was serving at 2-3.

A Raonic service winner was fine but the forehand miss the point prior once more gave Novak the running.
The 4 time champ consolidated his position with an ace and a volley winner, setting up 3 set points.

Milos saved two but on the first set point with his own serve, Djokovic prevailed to win 7 points to 5 and the opener 7-6.

Disappointed, Raonic let it show through his racquet in the first game of set two and with a litany of errors it was suddenly three break points.  A fine forehand from Raonic saved one but he couldn't prevent the Djokovic backhand from securing the break with the second and it was 1-0 to the Serbian player.

The Djokovic serve was almost Fort Knox in its security for the second set, Raonic incapable of placing even the slightest indentation.  In fact apart from unforced errors, one in the fourth and one in the eighth games, no other points were won on Novak's serve.  Raonic's serve after the opening game was rock solid too, but that was academic since a single break was all that was required to win the set 6-4 and Djokovic was one set away from another semi final.

The third set was just a procession for Djokovic and disappointing from a tennis perspective as the effort from Raonic appeared to subside a little. His hopes were slim, certainly, but he lacked the fight for every point which, if he wants to make the jump to the next level, he will need to show, because progression can sometimes be greater with how you handle some losses than with easy no pressure wins.  The Nadal third set effort in the 3 set loss to Berdych match was all character, and Raonic could have given some of that tonight.

Djokovic was all class and deserved to win 7-6 6-4 6-2 and is primed for a tougher test against Wawrinka in the semis as these two continue the beginnings of what could be a great rivalry over the years to come.

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