Raonic vs. Murray has the potential to be a very interesting match. It’ll certainly provide a nice contrast of styles.
Murray is the game’s consummate defensive counterpuncher — his speed, efficient groundstrokes, and low error rate all combine to make him a shoe-in for the latter rounds of this Major, played on a medium-to-slow variant of his favourite hard surface.
Raonic’s eight titles to date have also been on his favoured surface of hard courts. Although his height and relative lack of mobility aren’t helpful on a slower surface, as in Australia, his serve — up there in the top four in the world, arguably — combined with a renewed commitment to dictate offensively with his forehand, as well as attacking the net, do much to nullify the surface’s pitfalls. He is enjoying quite a streak in Australia, winning in Brisbane this month and progressing through five rounds in Melbourne to contest his second Major semifinal.
Both players are tied at three wins apiece in their head-to-head series, although Murray has won their sole meeting at Slam level. The Scot certainly starts off as clear favourite in this match, a two-time Major Champion, four times a finalist in Melbourne, and owning four times as many trophies in his cabinet than his Canadian opponent. He will be the last person, though, to underestimate Raonic Mark III that we have been seeing of late.
Although Murray stands to benefit if this becomes a baseline war of attrition, where he can move his man about and outfox him as he has done so many times before to taller, slower opponents, it would be folly to revert to his passive comfort zone. Raonic is likely to be able to hold the majority of his service games, even against Murray, a player with returning prowess second only to Djokovic. Also, if Raonic sees a lot of Murray’s weak second serves to swat away at leisure, as well as the Scot’s weaker forehands landing in the middle of the court as they often are liable to do, he will be able potentially to dictate the rallies and put Murray on the defensive.
I like what I have been seeing from Raonic of late, and I hope he continues this rich vein of form into the rest of the season. Such is the calibre and experience of Murray, though, I believe that this will alas be a bridge too far for the amiable Canadian.
Murray to win in four sets.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis