How Murray owns Raonic — and the world
With Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer out with injuries, and Novak Djokovic slumping, Andy Murray owns the world right now, not only Milos Raonic.
But he definitely has owned Raonic this year, beating him in Melbourne, Queen’s, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and the ATP World Tour finals in London.
In Ohio this summer, Murray practiced serving in the rain a few hours before the match, and he continued to serve well, holding serve both set.
Murray also dominated with his returns. Murray says he’s always enjoyed returning big servers, and none are bigger than Raonic. Instead of videos, Murray says he studies Raonic’s toss and racquet head at the point of contact. He seemed to read Raonic’s serves right from the start.
“I watch the ball right onto when he makes contact with it. There are things you can pick up with the racquet head when he’s making contact with the ball. It still isn’t easy because it happens in a split second. But the return is one of the more natural parts of my game.”
Raonic double-faulted twice in the first game, delayed by sporadic drizzle on a slippery hard court. Raonic said he had to adjust to the night lighting on center court, after beating Yuichi Sugita and Dominic Thiem on grandstand. “It was probably one of my worst starts.”
Murray consolidated the early break and held serve the entire match. He saved all three break points he faced. Raonic never seemed comfortable in the match. He had 5 double faults and only 8 aces, fewer than his first set versus Thiem. Raonic won only 5 out of 19 points on his second serve. Murray started far behind the baseline then moved forward and stepped into his returns. He even distracted Raonic enough to elicit double faults.
Murray has figured out that Raonic has trouble with low, dying slices to his forehand. Murray consistently sliced balls — both long and short — that Raonic, bending to dig out far below his strike zone, smacked into the net. His rhythm and timing thrown off, Raonic also had trouble with looping balls above his strike zone. His forehand, normally reliable, broke down throughout the match.
Frustrated, Raonic looked into the sky, laughing, or toward his team’s box.
Raonic later said he needs to adjust better to the low slices, doing better to get behind the low balls and accelerate the racquet through them to create his own pace.
“It’s about getting the legs behind and you being in the right position,” said Raonic. “I could have definitely adjusted better. When you play at night time those stay a lot lower, or maybe have a lot less on it so they die a bit on your racquet so you have to accelerate more on them.”
Murray also did well to keep his composure and avoid distractions. His mind rarely seemed to wander. He stayed focus on the business at hand, executed his plan, and avoided either negative outbursts or demonstrative celebrations. He fought hard to maintain intensity and slam the door on Raonic.
Murray seemed to be one step ahead of whatever adjustment Raonic tried to make. With Raonic finding success at net, Murray beat him to the punch. “I felt like he made more mistakes because he was trying to be more aggressive than usual,” said Murray. “I have obviously played well against him the past couple years. Each time I play against him I try to make a few changes so that’s not expecting exactly what I’m going to do. I know he’s obviously a smart guy and he watches matches back and follow’s what’s going on. So I try to keep him guessing a bit.”
Raonic said he has to serve better next time. “He’s one of the best returners. If he can get some kind of rhythm, which he did right away at the beginning, it’s difficult,” he said. “I believe I’ve never hit a serve where I shanked it into the crowd and then double-faulted.”
At the end, Murray stood at the net as the current King of the Court, the winner of Wimbledon, the Rio Olympics and 22 matches in a row.
((words and images by Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved))