Milos Raonic is in elite company as one of the semi-finalists at the Australian Open. You’ve probably heard of the other three – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer – the top three players in the world.
Between the three, they’ve reached 58 Grand Slam semis, each eclipsing the double digit mark. Raonic will play in his second.
The world’s second best player, Murray, will be the toughest opponent he’s faced at the tournament so far. That’s obvious.
But after beating the fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the round of 16, it’s not a stretch to think the Canadian has a chance.
You can watch Raonic face Murray tonight at 12:30am PST on TSN.
While this may be obvious, against Murray it’ll be even more important. Murray is one of the best returners in the world, and he has an incredible ability to turn a point from defence to offence.
In his previous two matches against Bernard Tomic and David Ferrer, Murray has won over 40 per cent of his receiving points. Raonic, in comparison, won 33 per cent of receiving points against Gael Monfils.
What this means is if Murray gets his racket on Raonic’s serve, he’ll be quicker to turn the point around than Monfils was.
While Raonic put 68 per cent of his first serves in against Wawrinka, that number dropped to 61 per cent against Monfils. He’ll need it to be around 70 per cent to beat Murray.
The one thing Raonic has done consistently well so far is establish court position and attack the net. Over his past two matches, Raonic has come to the net 129 times. In contrast, Murray has come to net 54 times.
Coming to the net will be harder against Murray, as he’ll hit deep, hard returns, and accurate passing shots.
If Raonic doesn’t have success serving and volleying, his entire game plan will erode.
In the past, Raonic’s weakness has been his baseline game. He used to go for broke on every shot and the results were predictable – either he’d blow it past the opponent or he’d hit an error.
Hitting winners against the top players is harder and he’d end up missing more shots.
Recently, Raonic has shown a more patient approach. He’s hitting strong ground strokes, moving his opponents around the court, and waiting for opportunities to strike.
Again, against Murray, he may have to pull the trigger two or three times to actually win a point because the second seed will run everything down.
If Raonic manages all this, he may be able to pull off the biggest win of his career.