I wrote the “Roger Wilting” piece about ten minutes after the match, while at work. That post, then, was a quick reaction to the Raonic v Federer match: the image of Roger wilting was as vivid as Raonic rising. This image has almost obscured other images of Federer in our tennis imagination. Of course, even this is complicated by the former champion’s age and consistency; he has made at least the SF in the last four majors he’s played. Not bad for an old man.
After watching a bit more of the earlier part of the match, the “wilt” of Federer’s game was from the word “go,” losing serve so early in that first set, essentially handing the Canadian this huge advantage that really was the conclusion of the match. Sure, he seemed in control after the second set TB all the way into the fourth set late, but the die had been cast. Raonic had already established belief in his prospects for this match.
This is what has to really bother the people who pull for Federer. There is that nonchalance to his game. Raonic is really never troubled on serve in this first set; you will hear people say Fed got Raonic’s serve to deuce a couple of times, but this is not very dramatic or troubling. Raonic wins that first set without much of a sweat, thanks to Roger DF on BP and the rest of his odd less than pressing style. This has to be a clear sign in the first set that Roger is not in SF championship form. Is he content to come back again from two sets down? Is he so confident in his game at this point that he can spot these players a set or two and still come-out on top?
I wrote about this going into the 2015 USO final. Just a few words of wisdom for the Swiss great. Anyone familiar with his tennis has to acknowledge, especially when juxtaposed with the more grittier competition on the tour, his characteristic “flow” or “elegance” that I would argue is more a show of incredible confidence and even arrogance. This “class” remains a big part of his tennis legacy, but he has lost out, in my humble opinion, on a handful of other big wins (including major championships) had he been a little more urgent, committed and even desperate. Granted, this amounts to inference and interpretation, but I have more than enough evidence to prove my point. The alternative to this read is that Roger is a massive choke.
Federer is right when he says he overachieved here at 2016 Wimbledon. We all know he had very little match play and consistent health to have much confidence in a deep run at the Championships. So, in that sense, this was more about Raonic.
Milos has earned this stage. He has been a monster on tour for a few years, just not quite able to break into that top 8 or top 5. I have written before about his 2015 IW QF win over Nadal; Federer beat him in the SF in tight straights. He has been around for a while and the guy’s professionalism, his intensity and inherent height and strength have made him a handful for anyone.
He has made the move to that next level. We talked about this in our SF preview. Sure Federer had history and all that jazz to play for, but Raonic was the more sensible pick if you were using your brain. I can go nuts thinking about what I would have told Federer in preparation to beat Raonic: “Make your first serve a weapon, be aggressive (come to net), use your slice to move the big, clumsy Canadian around – make him run! Oh, and don’t fuck around!” But Federer came-up short on all of that. His serve sucked, he came to the net about half the time that Raonic did, and he was pretty uninspiring in some of those rallies. Raonic had the form; Federer was lucky to be there both from a look at his season and from the sense we all got – including Federer – about the Cilic match: he needed a little luck to get through that. Think of Federer’s UE count from the SF. Wasn’t it remarkably low? What does that tell you? He wasn’t really involved.
Raonic has simply been playing solid tennis. His play in the AO was very threatening as an injury in that SF kept him from a place in the final. He made the final at IW, but looked a little injured and was smashed by Djokovic. We can go all the way back to Brisbane (sorry the chronology is a little whacked). The point is this guy has been playing good tennis all season (clay is its own peculiar season for specific styles). Bottom-line: Raonic looks good.
I did not say much about the Murray v Berdych SF because it was such an underwhelming match. Poor Berdych. There just isn’t much to say there. Murray is on a roll, it’s his tournament geographically, historically, and personally (not to mention the personnel perspective of Lendl being back in his box). So, many people see him as the favorite.
Murray’s defense seems hand-picked to match-up with Raonic. The Raonic serve vs the Murray defensive prowess. Given their match in the AO SF, we should have ourselves a bit of an epic, no?
I like the idea that Murray will not allow himself to lose this “at home,” with Djokovic out, Lendl in, and the time simply right for another major championship for this perennial bridesmaid. The stars have aligned.
But this might also be the next step for Milos Raonic. Federer was so bad yesterday I think it’s a tough gauge. But history says Milos might be ready for this. I’m sure Johnny McEnroe has a few words of advise for the 25 year-old. Ah yes: McEnroe v Lendl. This should be good. Lastly, we know that Milos has more than just the serve. His FH is great and his net game is improving. Murray better be on his passing shot.
And do know that I have much to explore with this coaching angle. This is the golden era of tennis, right? At least the last phase of that period of “greatness.” In the end, what affect will McEnroe, Lendl and, oh yeah, Becker have on this era?
Presentism is like fast food. It can kill you, if you know what I’m talking about.
Enjoy the final!