Wimbledon rematch not made in heaven for Raonic: DiManno
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND—“Okay, let’s see if he can do it again. Let’s see if he can do it again. And he did.”
Thus Milos Raonic spoke to himself during what was frankly a horror of a butt-kicking, while thousands watched, tiered around the cathedral of Centre Court, millions more witnessing the comeuppance on live television.
Roger Federer was in a mood. Roger Federer was in a groove.
And yes, he did it to Raonic again and again in Wednesday’s Wimbledon quarter-finals, shredding his decade-younger opponent’s bazooka serve, strafing him with forehands and backhands, depositing the ball down the line, into the corners, at the net, repeatedly over his head, every-which-way out of reach.
He awed. He amazed.
He didn’t concede a single break point.
Only the second man to play a century of matches at Wimbledon in the Open era — Jimmy Connors the other — Federer certainly looks ripe to win his eighth title at the All England Club, his 19th Grand Slam.
Six-foot-six Raonic — vanquisher of the Swiss Maestro in the semifinal here a year ago — was merely a tiny obstacle in his path on this day of reckoning.
Somehow, the 26-year-old from Thornhill will have to find a way to put the pieces of his psyche back together again. Fortunately he’s got a resilient nature, equanimity in spades. Whatever the turmoil inside, ripples rarely appear on the surface.
But goodness, this was a lopsided encounter, above and beyond the 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (4) outcome.
Equal in aces, with 11, yet otherwise a full-tilt boogie for Federer: 46 winners, losing just 19 points on his serve, saving four break points in the eighth game of the third set en route to his 42nd Grand Slam semifinal, thereby extending the record he already owns.
A thoroughly dismantled Raonic, seeded sixth, simply had no counter for the Federer thrust. Then he had to sit in front of a roomful of reporters and recount it.
“It’s a stiff task,” he understated, challenging Federer in full glorious flight. “You can know what you have to do. It’s a lot harder to do it than just to know it.”
Although many were left to wonder who came up with the cockamamie strategy Raonic attempted to apply, endlessly trying to assert the pace of the match when clearly Federer wasn’t having any of that; repeatedly manoeuvering to attack his opponent’s forehand when it meant running around his own backhand and inevitably plonking the ball wide or long or smack into Federer’s wheelhouse.
Federer was striking winners from both sides, needing just the one break to cruise through the opening set. It was difficult to imagine him finding another gear, yet cracking it upwards he did with double breaks in the second set. Raonic battled back to salvage something in the third but squandered a break point in the second game and four shots at it in the eighth. The tiebreak which ensued was Raonic’s last gasp. But down 0-3 Federer went on a five-point gallop before a loose forehand from the Canadian mercifully ended the match after an hour and 58 minutes.
“He’s moving well,” said Raonic, stating the obvious. “The thing I was most impressed with — at least the years I’ve been on tour — he was extremely sharp mentally always in the right moments, just always on top of things. He kept a very high gear the entire time without giving many real glimpses. That was the most defeating thing.”
While Raonic’s net game is vastly improved, there was little evidence of that progress Wednesday. “Could I have been a bit more efficient at the net? Yes. But he kept the pressure on me. It wasn’t like I was just sitting there volleying and there was nobody at the other side of the net.’’
Mostly Federer was playing easy and unfettered, with abandon. He obviously had no fear of Raonic’s howitzer serve. “He didn’t serve as well as he did last year,” Federer noted. “He was hitting much bigger second serves (in 2016) as well. Last year, he must have hit 10, 20 second serves at 130. This year he probably didn’t do any of those.’’ (His fastest second serve was 111 m.p.h.)
“Returning second serve, I just felt like I could somewhat get a read on his serve maybe.’’
Then he grinned. “Probably the next match it’s going to be just whistling past me.”
Raonic could offer only a deferential eulogy.
“Roger is a phenomenal player. When he’s ahead, even more phenomenal because he plays more freely. I tried to claw my way back into it, gave myself a few opportunities. He played them well.