NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 22: Milos Raonic of Canada on Day 1 at the 2020 Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City on August 22, 2020 (Photo by Peter Staples/ATP Tour)
Milos Raonic’s signature brand of serving prowess coupled with baseline power was executed to masterful success on Tuesday evening at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Centre, as he dispatched career rival Andy Murray 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open.
The first Masters 1000 of a abbreviated 2020 tennis season should have been played at its usual home in Mason, Ohio just outside of Cincinnati – but due to challenges involved with hosting an international tennis event during the pandemic, the tournament was relocated to the site of the US Open the week before the Grand Slam is set to take place.
Raonic, nevertheless, has seemed unfazed by the untraditional setting of the ‘Cincinnati’ Open this week. He continued his brilliant form in his third-round clash with Andy Murray, against whom he owns a difficult 3-9 career head-to-head – losing the last eight in a row.
Murray, for his part, was playing in his first tournament of 2020, having missed the season-starting events in January and February as he rehabbed hip troubles following surgery on the vulnerable tennis joint last year.
Great Britain’s two-time Wimbledon champ struggled on serve early out of the gates, which Raonic was quick to capitalize on. The Canadian broke to 30 in the fifth game of the first set and all but secured it following a second break two games later.
On an ace – of course – the set was his.
With a third consecutive break of the Murray serve tantalizingly within Raonic’s reach at 30-30, the players were called off the court with a torrential downpour looming moments away. The skies opened up, forcing the players off for just over an hour.
The brief reprieve ultimately did little to slow the Milos momentum. The unseeded World No. 30 broke minutes into the resumption of play on a spinning defensive lob that Murray smashed just long. Although Raonic would find himself in a 0-30 hole to start the following game, a few blistering serves and some strong rallying gave him the hold he needed to extend his lead.
The pressure would continues two games later, with Murray finally managing to generate break points on the impenetrable Raonic serve. Impenetrable it would remain, however, as some clutch play at the net staved off both of Murray’s break opportunities, much to the flailing frustration of the Briton.
Murray would find no respite to his woes in the next game. The Canadian No. 3 landed important returns on the big points, out-dueling his storied opponent from the back of the court to secure what would be a match-decisive second break of the set – and one game later, on a forced Murray error, the match belonged to Raonic.
The victory marks Raonic’s first win over Murray since the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells back in 2014. Although the Canadian kicked off his rivalry against Murray winning three of their first four, the former World No. 1’s landmark 2016 campaign saw a sweep of all seven of their clashes that year – so this win has got to feel good.
Next up for Milos in the quarter-finals is Filip Kraijinovic, who backed up an impressive second-round win over No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem with a straight sets victory against Marton Fucsovics on Tuesday night.
Feature photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour