Milos Raonic reached the 10th Grand Slam fourth round of his career on Saturday – dispatching Jack Sock 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-6(1) at Wimbledon with yet another display of his maturing tennis.

Raonic did not lose serve, extending his streak of service holds to 47 for the tournament. Sock had the occasional window of opportunity (0/3 on break points) but Raonic inevitably closed them, often by showing that it was he who was the steadier, more powerful player in the baseline rallies.

Power in the baseline rallies was the problem for Genie Bouchard as she was basically outhit by a dialed-in Dominika Cibulkova. The No. 19-ranked Slovak who won the big pre-Wimbledon event in Eastbourne a week ago, was sharper and more consistent and barely had a hiccup in her 6-4, 6-3 victory. The win avenged a memorable 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 loss to Bouchard in the third round of last year`s US Open.

Susan Mullane
Susan Mullane

Raonic’s mastery of Sock (shaking hands above left-handed because he bloodied his right knuckle punching his racquet strings), which is now eight wins in a row, is closely tied to tiebreak success. In their last seven matches, half the sets (nine of 18) have been decided by tiebreaks and Raonic has won every single one of them. Not only has he won them, he has dominated them. Two have ended with Sock earning four points but in the other seven the 23-year-old American got three or fewer points in each of them.

Clearly Raonic has a mental edge. “You definitely try to impose yourself when things aren’t going that well,” he said. “In those tiebreaks, you try to let him know you’re there. It’s not something that you’re oblivious to. It can make a subtle difference, but that subtle difference can be enough.”

As usual Raonic had gaudy numbers on serve, out-acing Sock 27-9 and winning 87 percent of first-serve points and 56 per cent of the points on his second serve.

But the stat that seems to interest him more and more – and likely consulting coach John McEnroe as well – is his success rate when going to the net. On Saturday, in his first Centre Court appearance since losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Roger Federer in the 2014 semifinals, he won the point 31 of 43 times when he went to the net.

Summing up his two-hour-and-16-minute win, Raonic said simply, “I stepped up when I needed to. There wasn’t a lot of pretty tennis – some hesitation, too passive (on his part). But I got it done.”

Susan Mullane
Susan Mullane

Next is a round-of-16 match-up on Monday with No. 11-ranked David Goffin. Surprisingly the two 25-year-olds have only played twice and their head-to-head is even at 1-1.

Here are the two matches:

2016: Indian Wells (hard court) SF – Raonic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

2014: Basel (indoor hard) Q – Goffin 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4.

About playing the 5-foot-11, 150-pound Belgian, Raonic said, “David is very solid. I think the best part of his game is probably his movement. He serves well, returns well, does all these things well. Has a great backhand as well. It’s tough to play him because you have to try to find a way to impose yourself.  He does a lot of things well. Hopefully I can take that comfort away from him and play on my terms.”

Not only does the 6-foot-5, roughly 210-pound Raonic ‘out-size’ Goffin, but you get the sense he sees bigger things for himself. “It’s the second year in a row that I’ve made the round-of-16 and I had already made a third round,” Goffin said in answering a question about how at ease he is on the grass at Wimbledon.

As noted above, Raonic has made 10 Grand Slam fourth rounds to just four for Goffin, and his two semifinals (Wimbledon ’14 and Australian Open ’16) and two quarter-finals – compared to just one quarter-final (at the French Open last month) for the Belgian – give the impression that he has much loftier ambitions.

Goffin noted about his comfort level on grass, “the grass here at Wimbledon is so good that almost all the players know how to play on it. I remember the days when the Spanish players would come here and hit a few balls and then they’d leave. Now I think everyone here has a chance and every player is tough to play on grass. And you can play from the baseline. That’s why I feel better and better.”

Regarding his hopes of success against Raonic on Monday, he suggested, “first off, I’ve beaten him and I know I had quite a few opportunities at Indian Wells. He serves really well but I know from the back of the court I’m quite comfortable and I have weapons from there that are better than his.”

He did manage to break Raonic twice in that semifinal match at Indian Wells in March, but the world No. 7’s serve on grass is even more formidable.

Susan Mullane
Susan Mullane

“It’s never easy to read his serve,” Goffin said. “He knows how to hit all the spins and all the zones. He knows how to adjust, so I’ve got to battle and try to read and feel where he’s going to serve. And he’ll be aggressive too – he’ll come to the net more and more. Milos is one of the biggest servers on the tour and you just have to try to do your best to return.”

That serve is something consulting coach John McEnroe will likely not be doing much tinkering with. The American seven-time Grand Slam champion didn’t speak with Raonic before his match Saturday, but they had talked on the eve (Thursday) of his subsequently delayed (until Saturday) match with Sock.

Asked if he had seen McEnroe doing commentary in the BBC courtside booth during his match on Saturday, Raonic said, “I know John was commentating the match. I’m not aware of where the booth was. I know where it should be. I think some of them have glass that you can’t see through.”


It was mentioned above that Raonic was good at closing any windows of opportunity that Sock had in their match. As for Bouchard’s match with Cibulkova, it felt as if there was really only one real chance for her to de-stabilize the spunky Slovak.

That was in the tenth game of the opening set when she had rallied from a 2-5 deficit and served at 4-5 to level the set. She saved three set points in that game – the same number she had saved in winning the opening set at the US Open last September. There was a sense Cibulkova might be getting uncomfortable and feeling a sense of déjà-vu. But on the fourth set point Bouchard hit a backhand wide and Cibulkova let out yet another shout of “pome” (c’mon) in Slovak.


Cibulkova’s secret for success was straight-forward – she hit flatter, harder, better-angled and more consistently than Bouchard. In the second set, she again took a 4-1 lead but there wasn’t as much drama as at the end of the first set and she closed out the match on Bouchard’s 19th unforced error (to go with 17 winners). Cibuklova had 24 winners and 16 unforced errors.

There wasn’t really a lot of profound post-match analysis about the loss for Bouchard, and she was the first one to say so. “I definitely feel like I wasn’t at the top of my game today and she definitely was. She’s playing at a really high level in general right now and she was really going for it and taking it to me.”

Bouchard got more and more frustrated as the match progressed – getting a warning for ball abuse for hitting a ball out of the stadium in the fifth game of the second set and then receiving a point penalty for racquet abuse when she swiped her racquet on the grass at the end of the same game.

“I definitely was a bit emotional out there,” she admitted. “It’s frustrating to feel like you’re not playing your best tennis at Wimbledon. So that’s how I felt.

“Sometimes when I get it out, I can turn it around and play a bit better. (It) didn’t really happen this time, though.”

She also said in general about her effort, “I was a little less relaxed than usual, so I was a bit slow. I feel like my ball (striking) quality probably wasn’t up to my usual standard, which allowed her to have time and be able to dictate the points. When I’m free and I hit the ball, it comes off a lot better.”


Bouchard’s current No. 48 ranking should improve marginally with her third-round finish, and she is playing better than she has been most of 2016.

Summing up, she said, “I can’t forget that I have made steps in the past couple of weeks. As painful as it is right now, I do need to realize that I have made some progress. Obviously losing at Wimbledon really sucks, and I will try to learn from it.”

Bouchard’s next scheduled tournament is the CITI Open in Washington, D.C. starting on July 18th. That will be followed by Rogers Cup in Montreal beginning the 25th of July.

Raonic will also be playing Rogers Cup the week of July 25th, but in Toronto at the men’s event.

For the moment, he is hoping to negotiate toward bigger and better things at Wimbledon. His path to success may have been facilitated on Saturday by the upset of No. 1 seed and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who was slated to play him in the quarter-finals.

“You still have great champions that are in the tournament,” Raonic said about his sense of the event without Djokovic. “You have Andy who’s won this tournament. You have Roger who’s won it I believe seven or eight times, seven times, been here in the finals ten times. There’s these marquee players that are still there.

“At the end of the day, no player is bigger than the tournament. The tournament goes on. There’s people fighting to make a difference for themselves.”

There can be no doubt remaining that he himself is one of those.

Nestor cruises into third round


Daniel Nestor and partner Dominic Inglot of Britain won their second-round match at the All England Club on Saturday, defeating Italians Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi (below) 6-2, 7-6(2) in a match played on Court 11.


“It’s tough to play these guys,” Nestor said afterward, “Fognini…he’s trying and he’s not trying…fooling around, hitting great shots, missing easy shots. But that’s the way he plays so you’ve just got to stay focused. It got a little tough in the second set. But it’s a good match to win. I think it’s better to win that way than to win 2 and 1. For the next match, I think it was good.”

Giving kudos to his partner, the No. 29-ranked, 6-foot-5 Inglot, Nestor said, “his serve is massive and he’s very athletic at the net, which is something that I need to win. I play traditional old school doubles, winning at the net, so I like being beside him. If he understands how to be imposing with his game, we can do well.”

They did well last week, winning the ATP 250 event in Nottingham. It was Nestor’s 89th tour title and now gives him a streak of 23 years in a row with at least one title.

About the streak, he said, “it’s a cool streak, I’m happy to keep it going…if I keep it going for another seven years I’ll be happy.” There was a smile on his face as he spoke those words.


In another second-round doubles match on Saturday, Adil Shamasdin and partner Jonathan Marray continued their charmed run. After upsetting defending champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau on Thursday, they defeated the German pairing of Dustin Brown and Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-4. It’s the 34-year-old Shamasdin’s best performance at a Grand Slam and he and Marray, 35, played the 11 a.m. matchon Saturday and got through quickly to become the first team into the third round.

Currently ranked No. 117, the 180 points Shamasdin has earned so far should move his ranking back into the Top 100 at about No. 95. His career high was No. 55 in 2015.

Wimbledon post card


Wimbledon is a pretty posh neighbourhood in Southwest London. If there’s any hang-out spot that’s a little more proletarian it’s the Dog & Fox. Located right at the junction of Church Road (the All England Club’s street address) and High Street, it’s a crowded place during The Championships with patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk – at least when the weather co-operates.


Top photo credit: Susan Mullane