It was truly remarkable how ineffective Milos Raonic was in the first two sets of his 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-victory over David Goffin on Monday and then how completely dominant he was by the end of the three-hour and two-minute Wimbledon fourth-round match.
Some of the numbers from the ‘tale of two matches’ are startling: Raonic was 75% and 67% on first serve points won in the first two sets and then 86%, 88% and 81 % in the last three sets, and his success rate on net approaches was a mere 14/30 over the first two sets and a masterful 22/28 for sets three, four and five.
“I think I allowed him to play too much on his terms,” Raonic said about the first part of the match in explaining the dramatic turnaround. “I was getting a lot of balls in and playing the points and playing maybe better‑looking tennis at the beginning. I was allowing him to play too much, to get too much rhythm. The points were too long. He was feeling good and doing a lot of good things at the beginning. I wanted to take that away from him.”
Raonic, who had not lost his serve in 47 service games over the first three rounds, got to 50 holds in a row but then lost his serve three times in the next seven games – the most unsettling being the last game of the second set which he ended with a feeble double fault into the net.
But he broke the Goffin serve to lead 2-1 in the third set and then misty drizzle forced the players to leave the court with Raonic still up a break at 3-2.
During the half-hour break he was able to talk to his team, including John McEnroe who then left for a BBC TV commentating assignment.
Whatever was said certainly got Raonic going.
Tennis Channel commentator Mary Carillo calls it “Big Babe tennis” when imposing women players outhit their opponents, well 6-foot-5 Milos Raonic certainly played “Big Dude tennis” in the final three sets to gradually outclass the 5-foot-11 Belgian. The power, consistency and accuracy of the Raonic shots was too much for Goffin – by the end it was like he was on auto-pilot belting huge serves and ground strokes that skimmed the lines with amazing regularity.
Explaining his serving efficiency over the third, fourth and fifth sets, Raonic said, “you take the rhythm away from him and he knows how important the (service) return is. It just puts a little more pressure on him. I tried to keep him uncomfortable.”
The constant attack and heavy duty serving wore on Goffin. “In the first set, the serves were on my racquet and I got them back,” the world No. 11 said. “I was able to counter him. Then, little by little, it’s not much sometimes – a lapse of concentration and being tired too after two hours, you’re a little more tired and you don’t centre the ball as well and you’re not quite as attentive. He gets more confident. He was very consistent. I didn’t have any chances – he really served better and better.”
Goffin was 3/8 on break point chances in the first two sets and 0/1 – a backhand down-the-line passing shot that he hit wide leading 2-1 in the fourth set. Raonic was 0/4 on break points in the first two sets and 3/6 in sets three, four and five.
Playing in the 22nd Grand Slam event of his career, Raonic spoke about having the composure and mental strength to reverse an unflattering scoreline the way he did on Monday in No. 2 Court. “Maybe I would have had the mental strength, but I don’t know if I would have had the exact same perspective on what I needed to do in those right moments,” he said about being able to redress the situation. “I think the general understanding of myself and my game is probably what I have significantly improved on.
“The time I’ve spent working, improving mentally has been about staying in the moment, not looking ahead and not looking behind. That was one of the more important things that made the difference for me today.”
The win earns Raonic a quarter-final (his second at Wimbledon – two years ago he beat Nick Kyrgios) against Sam Querrey, who upset two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic on Saturday and beat Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 7-6(5) 6-4 on Monday.
They have played three times with the 28-year-old American leading 2-1, and that includes at Wimbledon in 2012 when he prevailed 6-7(3), 7-6(7), 7-6(8) 6-4. Raonic, ranked No. 7, defeated the currently No. 41-ranked Querrey in their most recent meeting – 6-4, 6-2 in San Jose, California in 2013.
The two big servers top the chart in aces thus far at Wimbledon ’16 – Raonic has 101 and the 28-year-old Querrey is right behind with 97.
“We pretty much try to do the same thing,” Raonic sad about their gamestyles and Wednesday’s match-up. “Maybe I try to sort of push the aspect of coming in a bit more than he does. But I think we’re pretty much going to try to play on our own terms.
“Serve is going to be important but it’s really going to be about who can throw the other guy off.”
Heading into the match-up, with the winner playing in Friday’s semifinals against either Roger Federer or Marin Cilic, Raonic can take satisfaction in having just rallied from a two-set deficit. “It’s the first time for me and probably the most significant situation for me to come back from two sets to love down,” he said. “I definitely felt good about that – hopefully a nice pivotal match for me.”
The round-of-16 comeback win did not go unnoticed in North America, with Raonic receiving congratulations from the NBA on Twitter, along with it highlighting his dunk in the NBA All-Star Celebrity game in Toronto in February.
Informed about that during a BBC interview, Raonic said, “probably outside of tennis, it (basketball) is the sport I enjoy watching the most. Big headlines today that I got caught up on after the match – (free agent) Kevin Durant going to the (Golden State) Warriors. I love the Toronto Raptors, I support them. It’s a sport of many great athletes that I’m really fascinated by and enjoy watching and participating in a very safe environment. (Smiles) I don’t want to sprain any ankles or bust any fingers.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder is probably Raonic’s second favourite team so he would be particularly intrigued by the news about the 6-foot-9 Durant, a forward.
There has been lots of talk about Raonic and having McEnroe as a consulting coach at Wimbledon. (Apparently there was a second monitor on Raonic’s match in the booth while McEnroe commented on another match on Monday.) The 25-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., spoke at length about having McEnroe, Carlos Moya and primary coach Riccardo Piatti on board at the moment.
“The way I’ve always looked at it is, don’t spare any expense when it comes to improving. Maybe some other guys look at it a different way.
“I have three coaches here – not here right now – but around me. I have numerous physios I alternate. I have a fitness guy. I have numerous people that either come to tournaments or are taking care of me behind the scenes. I feel that’s what I need.
“I’ve looked to other people to really try to help me, try to get the most out of me. I think that would be my biggest regret if I didn’t do everything I could.”
Pospisil, Shamasdin still in doubles
It was two up and two down in doubles action at Wimbledon for Canadians playing with foreign partners on Monday.
Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, champions in 2014, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Jordan Thompson while Adil Shamasdin and British partner Jonathan Marray won a marathon (the three-out-of-five set format begins in the third round this year because of the backlog of matches last week) by the score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 14-12 over 15th seeds Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Marcel Granollers of Spain.
Daniel Nestor, champion at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 with Nenad Zimonjic, and partner Dominic Inglot of Britain were beaten 7-6(0), 6-4 by Frenchman Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. That was a tough one for Nestor who thought he had Roger-Vasselin lined up to play for the second half of 2016 – they were runners-up at Rogers Cup in Montreal and winners at Cincinnati last summer – before the 32-year-old Frenchman reneged. That gave an extra edge to the match.
If he and Inglot had won, they would have played the 8th-seeded Pospisil and Sock in Tuesday’s third round. Now it will be Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin versus the Canadian/American combo.
The 34-year-old Shamasdin (above chasing) and Marray, 35, are unlikely quarter-finalists, although Marray does have the pedigree of having won Wimbledon with Frederik Nielsen of Denmark in 2012. Shamasdin, whose speed and quick reflexes and improvising ability complement Marray’s net-play savvy, is having the tournament of his life. A graduate of Brown University in the Ivy League, the wild card duo of the Pickering, Ont., resident and the Brit will next face the No. 12 seeds Treat Huey of the Philippines and Max Mirnyi of Belarus.
In women’s doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and her Spanish partner Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, were beaten 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 by the 14th seeded pairing of Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonjia.
The second-round loss was a disappointment for Dabrowski and Martinez Sanchez after they won the WTA event in Nottingham two weeks before Wimbledon.
Four-out-of-five in juniors
Denis Shapovalov led the way for Canadian juniors in the first round of the boys event – defeating 18-year-old William Blumberg of the USA 6-3, 6-4 in an opening-round match on Monday. The 17-year-old Shapovalov, who won the Roehampton pre-Wimbledon event last Friday, will take extra pleasure in the victory. A year ago he was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by the 18-year-old American in the round-of-16 at Wimbledon.
On Sunday, Félix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal won his first-ever match on grass, defeating Alistair Gray of Britain 6-2, 6-3. Auger-Aliassime, 15, was runner up at the French Open junior event last month.
Ben Sigouin, 17, of Vancouver was a loser on Sunday, beaten 7-6(8), 2-6, 6-4 by Evan Furness of France. Sigouin had four set points in the opening set, so the score could certainly have been different.
Both Canadians in the girls draw advanced – Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Blainville, Que., and Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., have made it to the second round. Robillard-Millette defeated Malene Helgo of Norway 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday while Andreescu, seeded No. 6, beat Ludmilla Samsonova of Italy 6-2, 6-3.
All four Canadian juniors remaining in the singles will play their second-round matches on Tuesday.
A constant presence in pictures looking out south from Centre Court is the steeple of St. Mary’s church in the background.
There are rows of tombstones right in front of the Church of England edifice and all are moldy and often indecipherable from long-ago, bygone days.