Well how about that folks? An absolute clinic from Roger as he dispatched Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2 in 1h 45 minutes.
It was a JesusFed like display from start to finish and the Canadian never had a look in as Roger was far superior in all departments including the all important serve as he coasted over the line without really having to break into a sweat.
Before the match a few fans were worried that Raonic might be able to cause Roger a ton of problems with his serve. I guess that was justified seen as though their previous 3 encounters were all decided by a close 3rd set tie break but today it was anything but close.
First Set – Federer Starts Fast
It's always a joy as a Fed fan when he gets out of the blocks at lightspeed and that's exactly what happened today.
He came out all guns blazing, the serve was deadly, the reflexes were sharp which was essential for returning the Raonic serve and just his all round play was spot on from the get go.
Roger created 3 break points at 3-2 but Raonic managed to bail himself out with some of his trademark big serves. You didn't really feel like it was a missed opportunity for Fed though as there's nothing he could have done differently. It felt more like a sign of things to come and that's exactly what happened at 5-4 as once again he piled the pressure on Raonic winning all of the rallies that went above 3 shots. Two missed forehands and a Raonic double fault for the 3rd time in the match gave Federer another set point which he sealed when Raonic netted a fairly makeable volley off a backhand pass.
Second Set – JesusFed Personified
The first set was done in just a mere 33 minutes and the second wasn't much different. Again this set boiled down purely to serve and who could find that little extra something at the business end of it.
Federer cruised through his service games with consumate ease, dropping only 2 points the entire set and serving 4 love holds that gave Raonic plenty to think about. To his credit Raonic tightened up his own serve in the second set and really dropped some bombs to hold his end up but he just couldn't get it together on the return or from the back of the court.
The set, as most fans expected at least one set would do, resulted in a tie break. Raonic is dangerous in breakers but as we've seen with Roger when he's played the likes of Karlovic, Isner and Philippoussis he's able to conjure something up when it really matters. At 3-3 Raonic came in behind a half baked approach shot and a whipped pass gave Federer the all important mini break.
From that point on there was no looking back for Roger; 2 service holds and then another net approach from Raonic saw Federer come up with a sweet passing shot that gave him a 2 set lead.
Stats from the second set just prove that when the Federer game clicks into place he's extremely difficult to stop. Making 91% of first serves and hitting 14 winners to just 3 unforced errors. GOAT like.
Set Three – Raonic Crumbles
Much like the Tomic match on Saturday evening, Raonic completely crumbled in the third set and Roger just maintained his level to dominate.
The only chance Raonic had was to hold serve and come good in the tie break as there was no way he was coming up with the goods to break Roger tonight. Unfortunately for him he handed over a break in the very first game of the third set, game over. The key break soon became a double break and from there it was just up to Roger to coast across the finish line. He lapsed in concentration for a moment as he got pegged back to deuce but his impeccable serve was soon back to finding the lines as he sealed the deal 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2. GOAT.
On Court Interview with Courier
Final Thoughts on the Match
Like I said this was an absolute clinic from Roger tonight, he excelled in all areas and while I don't think Raonic played particularly well Roger never really allowed him too. The Swiss dominated on serve, manoeuvred his opponent around the court at will and managed to block back the Raonic serve back like it was nothing.
It's tough to say exactly what Raonic could have done differently other than return better. He served quite well overall it's just he was broken down in the big moments. It was the peRFect example of how to approach a match against a big serving opponent and play smart tennis. There's no doubting this is the sort of matchup that favours Roger but that's purely because he has an innate ability to nullify guys with big serves and use his strengths to capitalise on their weaknesses.
In Raonic's case his movement (or lack of), his predictable forehand and his general lack of tactics or variety were his downfall tonight and you required the full package to get past Federer. Put simply if you don't have great defense and retrieval skills or the ability to hit huge off the ground for 5 sets you're not going to come out on top against the GOAT even at age 31.
Whilst writing this I heard Raonic has come out in his press conference and said he wasn't sure if he'd even play the match today due to an injured metatarsal. That's fair enough, maybe he wasn't at full fitness and that hampered him tonight but as far as I'm concerned if you step on court you do so with the mindset you will be able to play for 5 sets if you have to. Maybe he was injured or not at full fitness, would it have made a difference? Who knows. He started the match so that's all there is to it
Ultimately Roger was just a class above tonight and after what looked like a really tough draw on paper he's made serene progress into the Quarter Finals without dropping or a set or being broken in 57 games where he will will now meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Predictions vs. Tsonga
Next up for Roger is Tsonga who beat Gasquet in 4 sets. I expected a little more from Gasquet considering he won Doha but yet again he fails to produce when it matters. He no doubt played the match from 10 feet behind the baseline and gave Tsonga all the time in the world to tee off with his forehand and step into the court.
Anyway, back to Fed vs Tsonga, these two guys have quite a bit of history, Roger has dominated the Frenchman in many matches previously but everyone always casts their minds back to when Tsonga came back from 2 sets to love down to win in 5 at Wimbledon in 2011. That was a weird match from Roger, one that signified his Grand Slam slump really where he wasn't quite able to win tight matches. I think he's a different player now though, Roger 3.0 if you will, so I think he's taking Tsonga down in straight sets.
Roger leads the H2H 8-3 and has won their last 4 encounters. He also gave Tsonga a serious beat down in Melbourne back in 2010, that was a Goderer like match akin to the beating he gave Del Potro on Rod Laver a year earlier. We got it all that day; ridiculous half volleys, back hand smashes, you name it, he came up with it.
Maybe expecting a Goderer like performance in two days is a bit optimistic but I can't really see what Tsonga can do to really beat Fed the way he's been playing in his 4 matches so far. He'd literally have to return like an animal and then be able to hit through the court off his ground strokes to really be in with the a chance.
Of course Tsonga is able to play in the zone for 5 sets a la Wimbledon 2011 but I think Roger 3.0 is a different kettle of fish these days and possesses too much variety and court awareness to be drawn into a slugging match. If Roger is able to get into a nice
riddum rhythm on serve and use his forehand to dictate play then he should progress to the semi finals where he will no doubt meet Andy Murray who has had a cake walk draw so far as he faces Jeremy Chardy in the other Quarter Final.
He is a good guy with a great game, he is a great shot maker and a great character for the game, we didn't play each other last year I don't think and the year before we played three times in 10 days. We just came from a trip in South America, played a couple of exhibition matches against each other which was a lot of fun and now we're going to try to bring it here to centre court and I am really looking forward to that. It should be exciting.
Anyway my prediction is look for Roger to serve well, hit the inside out forehand sweetly and use his variety to drag Tsonga outside the court as frequently as possible en route to a 6-2 7-5 6-4 victory. Allez les suisse!